Metro Manila mayors want to keep 1 meter distancing policy

MANILA, Philippines — As government officials argued over the new rules that reduced physical distancing on public transportation, Metro Manila Council (MMC) chair and Parañaque Mayor Edwin Olivarez said on Wednesday that he and the other Metro mayors were not consulted about the new policy.

According to him, the MMC — composed of the 17 mayors in Metro Manila — met with the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) on Sunday to discuss the new guidelines set by the Department of Transportation (DOTr).

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“We were perplexed because there was no proper consultation with the 17 mayors, and we were surprised that the guidelines were released without consultation on the ground, in the National Capital Region, which we know is the epicenter of COVID-19,” Olivarez said at the Kapihan sa Manila Bay online forum.

The stand of the MMC, he stressed, was to maintain physical distancing on public utility vehicles (PUVs), “which [could] be very congested.”

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“Even with a face mask or a face shield, health experts should study whether 0.75-meter is enough, but I think that we mayors would definitely object to 0.5 and 0.3 meters,” he said.

Despite warnings from the medical community and the Department of Health, the DOTr decided to reduce the distance between passengers in PUVs from one meter to 0.75 meters starting Sept. 14, then to 0.5 meters and finally, 0.3 meters with two-week intervals in between.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said that Duterte was expected to rule on the new policy on Thursday, after the IATF met for six hours on Tuesday.

“The body came up with a recommendation to be submitted to the President and it would be the President who would ultimately decide,” Roque said.

—With a report from Christine Avendaño

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