Metro Manila mayors to oppose further easing of distancing rules in PUVs

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 16) — The mayors of Metro Manila will take a common stand if the national government pursues its plan to further reduce physical distancing in public transport, a local chief executive said on Wednesday.

Metro Manila Council Chairman and Parañaque Mayor Edwin Olivarez said the mayors were not consulted before the Department of Transportation implemented the policy, adding that local officials need to weigh in as the region has the highest number of COVID-19 cases nationwide.

"Tingin ng Metro Manila Council, hindi pwedeng i-sacrifice ang health protocols, kailangan ang physical distancing... Definitely, 'yung 0.5 at 0.3 (meter), palagay ko kaming 17 mayors ay mag-oobject," he said in an online media forum.

[Translation: The Metro Manila Council believes we cannot sacrifice health protocols. We need physical distancing. I believe the 17 mayors will object when it is reduced to 0.5 and 0.3 meter.]

From the one-meter distance recommended by the World Health Organization, the Transportation department on Monday reduced the distance between commuters inside mass transit to 75 centimeters to accommodate more passengers. The distance will be reduced to 50 centimeters by September 28, and further down to 30 centimeters by October 12.

The controversial policy will continue until President Rodrigo Duterte announces his decision on Thursday. The COVID-19 Inter-Agency Task Force sent fresh recommendations to the President to help him decide.

Olivarez said the national government should allow more public utility vehicles on the road. He added the policy should be revisited once the infection curve has completely flattened, adding that health experts should take the lead in the discussion.