MANILA

DOTr chief defends distancing policy

SunStar Davao File Photo

THE decision to reduce physical distancing requirements in public transportation units was a “product of research and simulation”, Department of Transportation (DOTr) Secretary Arthur Tugade told lawmakers on Tuesday, September 15, 2020.

During the House committee on appropriations’ hearing on the agency’s proposed budget for 2021, Tugade said the new policy will not aggravate the spread of Covid-19.

“This is not a product of a ‘knee-jerk’ reaction, but also a product of research and a product of simulation which we have done in the PNR [Philippine National Railway],” Tugade said.

He stressed that the move would not affect the number of Covid infections in the country if people follow the government’s health protocols.

“We can show that the matter of health and safety is not prejudiced provided you do not strict enforcement and recognition of face masks, face shields, washing of hands, no more unnecessary talking, no eating, no use of cellular phones, no asymptomatic, and no senior citizens,” Tugade said.

The DOTr reduced the required distance between passengers to 0.75 meter from the one meter recommended by health experts effective September 14.

The new policy covers all modes of travel via air, land, or sea.

The House panel has terminated the budget hearing for the agency, meaning it can now be discussed in the plenary.

The DOTr has proposed a P13.248-million budget for its personnel services, P16.99 million for its maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE), P7.8 million for financial expenses, and P112.8 million for capital outlay.

According to Tugade, the country needs a “whole-of-government approach.”

“Samu’t sari na iyong solusyon para mapagsolusyonan natin itong transportation problem. To solve the dearth in transportation, you must have a whole-of-government approach, hindi lang sa transportasyon,” he explained.

Former Health secretary and now Iloilo Representative Janette Garin backed Tugade’s statement, saying that the Philippines is not under Covid-19 lockdown forever.

“We cannot just stagnate dahil may Covid. At hindi naman puwedeng naka-lockdown tayo at hindi tayo gagalaw, at hihintayin natin itong bakuna. If we wait for the vaccine, chances are we will have more non-Covid illnesses,” she said. (SunStar Philippines)


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