Unvaccinated workers in crammed buses during commutes made longer and harder by rains make up the “perfect storm” that could drive Delta variant COVID-19 cases up, Senator Joel Villanueva warned today.
In appealing for more “rides and jabs” for essential and economic frontliners, Villanueva said the sight of hundreds of them waiting at night for a ride home under heavy downpour “should not be the portrait of our state of the nation.”
He called on the government to come up with a mass transportation plan during the typhoon months when Metro Manila’s notoriously heavy vehicular traffic is aggravated by rains and floods.
“Kung pwede lang po sana may contingency plan kung ilan ang dagdag na PUVs ang pwede ma-deploy during ‘surge periods,’” Villanueva said.
If airlines can deploy reliever flights when there is a backlog of passengers to be transported, the same must apply in Mega Manila, he said.
The senator said one source of additional rides during bad weather in order to ferry tens of thousands of stranded breadwinners are “civilian government and military buses, vans, trucks.”
“Pwede pong pag-augment tulad ng ginagawa noon. Isama po natin ang mga government agencies sa bayanihan sa paghahatid ng mga pasaherong inabot ng hatinggabi na sa daan at wala pa ring masakayan, “Villanueva said.
The senator reiterated his call for “transport” to join other “T’s” – treat, track and test – in stopping COVID-19’s spread.
“Kung pasahero din po ang COVID-19 sa mga PUV, ang mga ito ay parang biyaheng hospital. Subalit mababawasan po ang risks kung hindi puno at sakto lang ang capacity,” Villanueva said.
He said 70 percent of workers in the so-called NCR plus cannot work from home and rely on mass transport in going to and from work, and have found the ordeal getting harder.
“What complicates their plight is that NCR has 85 flood-prone areas in 579 barangays. And Metro Manila has 185 rainfall days in a year,” he said.
This helped land NCR in the No. 2 spot of cities with the worst traffic congestion in the world “at baka po number one pa kung rush hour plus heavy rains,” Villanueva noted.
So that workers would not “swim to work,” Villanueva urged the release of funds under the president’s discretion in the amount equivalent to the unspent allocation for PUV service contracting authorized under the 2021 national budget and the Bayanihan II Law.
He said Metro Manila account for one-third of the economy, while Region III and Region IV-A account for one-fourth of the nation’s GDP.
In batting for more “jeeps and jabs” for workers wherever they are, the senator noted that 1,943,673 people in the “A4” vaccination group have gotten their first job and 449,252 their second.
“Malaki pa po ang hahabulin but the good news, and the government should be commended for this, is that we hit close to 473,000 doses administered on July 22,” he said.