Pia: Now is the best time to pass the Safe Pathways Act

Sponsorship speech on the Safe Pathways Act (SBN 1582 under Committee Report 101) 

By Senator Pia S. Cayetano

Delivered on June 3, 2020 (World Bicycle Day)

Mr. President and my dear colleagues, I come before you today to sponsor Senate Bill No. 1582 under Committee Report No. 101, otherwise known as the “Safe Pathways Act”, taking into consideration Senate Bill No. 1518 filed by this representation, and Senate Resolution No. 411 filed by Senator Francis Tolentino.

 

I would like to begin by thanking my colleagues, Senator Grace Poe, who expressed her intent to be a co-author and co-sponsor of this bill, and Senator Francis Tolentino, Senator Manny Pacquiao, and Senator Sonny Angara, who are co-authors of this measure.

 

There is no better time to sponsor this measure than today, as we join other nations in celebrating World Bicycle Day (June 3).

Mr. President, as a health advocate, biker, and triathlete, I have been fighting for this cause for as long as I can remember.

For almost a decade, I have been advocating for bike lanes and sustainable transportation. I filed my first Sustainable Transportation Bill in this chamber, with the help and support of my fellow advocates in 2011. I refiled similar bills in succeeding Congresses.

The benefits of cycling and walking are known to many, if not all, and yet, many metropolitan centers like ours fail to change gears and disrupt the current transportation system, even if that system does not work.

Fast forward to today… Suddenly, we are living in the time of COVID-19, which has forced us into a new normal. All over the world, public transportation systems were shut down in an effort to flatten the curve. But people have adapted. In lieu of buses, trains, and cabs, many, including our very own health [care] workers and frontliners, have turned to more resilient and safer  ‘alternatives’ like biking and walking.

The World Health Organization, in its technical guidance on moving around during the pandemic, advocated cycling and walking as an alternative for people to “reach workplaces when possible, meet essential daily needs, or provide assistance to [the] vulnerable.”

 

In Europe, China, and the United States, and all over, urban cycling networks surged after lockdowns were imposed. In cities like New York, Mexico, and Berlin, they set up temporary bicycle lanes to facilitate people’s mobility.

And Mr. President, amid the continuous threats of COVID-19, we are gradually realizing the upside to our shift towards sustainable transportation.

 

The decrease in the number of motorized vehicles has allowed us to see the clear blue skies, a sight we have missed in the cities for years… Environmental groups and government agencies, including our own Department of Environment and Natural Resources, confirm that the air is cleaner.

In a time of high anxiety, biking and walking provide more comfort as it is easier to social distance this way. They also promise better physical and mental wellbeing because of the physical activity involved. Moreover, the cost of buying and maintaining a bike is very low compared to owning a private vehicle and even commuting.

Sustainable transportation is now part of the new normal, and we welcome this change in people’s mindset. But we cannot simply put cyclists and pedestrians on the road without ensuring their safety. We need to be able to support them with the right infrastructure, which we sadly lack in our car-centric streets.

 

I bring the attention of the body to the photo, which is a photo of medical frontliners from St. Luke’s Medical Center in Quezon City. They are testing out the new bicycles donated through the Life Cycles PH community.

The fact that most of our healthcare workers and frontliners are using these modes of transportation stresses the urgency of our call. Every day, they face risks apart from COVID-19, as they continue to traverse unsafe roads while going to work. We need to protect them.

 

Mr. President, this is the objective of the measure we are proposing today.

The Safe Pathways Bill seeks to create a network of pop-up bicycle lanes that can be used by our essential workers during the pandemic. The lanes shall strictly be for bicycles and other non-motorized vehicles, and shall connect users to essential destinations like medical facilities, among others. The lanes shall also have enough space to accommodate one-meter physical distancing.

 

One of the recommendations made by Dr. Antonio Dans from the UP College of Medicine is to prioritize building loops of bikeway systems that link roads along hospitals, such as those within the City of Manila. This will guarantee that our frontliners will remain safe even before they reach the hospitals where they work.

This objective of our proposed measure is aligned with the call of our colleague, Senator Francis Tolentino, who filed Senate Resolution 411 urging the DPWH, DILG, and MMDA to designate, develop, and improve bicycle lanes in Metro Manila, which transitioned to General Community Quarantine beginning last Monday, June 1.

 

The bill shall also create a designated network of emergency pathways along local roads, to give pedestrians, cyclists, and non-motorized vehicle users safe and convenient access to frequented destinations. Motorized vehicle passage shall be restricted in these pathways during peak hours.

 

Meanwhile, public places, government offices, schools, places of work, and commercial establishments like malls, banks, and hospitals shall provide adequate parking spaces for bicycles and other non-motorized vehicles.

 

The public and private sectors shall develop the necessary infrastructure and facilities to promote the use of these modes of transportation, including parking spaces, showers, changing areas, and hydration facilities.

Furthermore, the bill mandates cyclists and other non-motorized vehicle users to obey existing traffic laws, rules, and regulations.

As Chair of the Committee on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Innovation, and Futures Thinking, I am also duty-bound to ensure that the government remains cognizant of its goals of creating a more sustainable future for all. This bill shall mandate our appropriate agencies to permanently adopt these networks of bike lanes and walkways even after the pandemic, as part of our long-term solution to address congestion and pollution.

 

The call of our advocates in the health, environment, and even sports sectors is stronger now than ever before. Various government agencies, both local and national, have expressed their commitment to immediately implement our proposals; some cities have made their own initiatives, like Taguig and Iloilo.

 

Iloilo City has a dedicated bike lane along its Diversion Road and on selected thoroughfares in the downtown area. Its bike lane stretches more than 11 kilometers. Taguig City also has a 6.9-kilometer protected bike lane on the stretch of Laguna Lake Highway in Bicutan.

Our bike lane is also separate from the pedestrian sidewalk, and then there is also a permanent lane that separates these bike lanes from the road used by motor vehicles for protection, as you can see in the photo.

Moreover, in time for the World Bicycle Day today, the Taguig City government has set up additional bike lanes along Cayetano Boulevard and Bayani Road. It is also set to launch a comprehensive bike program, which includes the creation of an office dedicated to biking, the establishment of new bike routes in the city, and a bike lending program for city employees.

Mr. President, the time is now. This crisis presents us with opportunities we must take now. We can seize the moment and institutionalize policy changes that will leave our children with cleaner air, a healthier future with bike lanes, pedestrian lanes, and emergency pathways.

Thank you! #

Make ‘bayanihan’ work to revolutionize PH education for our youth

“The Bayanihan Spirit is called upon now more than ever to make education effective for our young children.”

Senator Pia S. Cayetano delivered this message to the country’s educators on Monday (June 1), as she called for a whole-of-society approach to address challenges to the basic education sector during COVID-19 and beyond.

Speaking before DepEd’s virtual kickoff program of the 2020 Brigada Eskwela and Oplan Balik Eskwela, Cayetano reiterated the importance of blended learning to ensure that no child will get left behind in receiving quality education during the ‘new normal.’

“The urgent task at hand [is] the delivery of the education materials. So we are now rushing to set into place other modes of delivery because the usual physical classroom setting will not be happening anytime soon,” the senator noted.

“However, I’d like to include in the discussion that beyond the delivery of education is [the need to] reach every single child with the help of tools available to us, so we can optimize learning for each child,” she added.

Cayetano said this requires more than just shifting to a different teaching platform – from physical classes to online classes – but a comprehensive ‘blended’ approach, which will employ the participation of parents, teachers, and communities in delivering education to children.

The Chair of the Senate Committee on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Innovation, and Futures Thinking, Cayetano said educators can turn current challenges into opportunities to jumpstart education for the future.

“I support the initiatives and at the same time challenge DepEd to make the most of these challenging times and really revolutionize education for our young people today,” she said.

Senator Pia Cayetano: “Beyond the delivery of education is [the need to] reach every single child with the help of tools available to us, so we can optimize learning for each child.”

DepEd Secretary Leonor “Liling” Briones, for her part, echoed the senator’s beliefs, stressing that the agency shares Cayetano’s goal of approaching the sector’s needs using a futures thinking mindset.

Education Secretary Leonor Briones said the Department of Education shares Sen. Pia Cayetano’s goal of approaching the sector’s needs using a futures thinking mindset.

Meanwhile, Education Undersecretary Nepomuceno Malaluan also expressed his support for Cayetano’s message. He said there is now a much-needed opportunity to “really transform the [country’s] education system.”

“Hindi po tatalikuran ng ating pamahalaan at ng Kagawaran ng Edukasyon ang tungkulin na magbigay ng kalidad na edukasyon para sa lahat. Hindi lamang emergency response ito, kundi tulad ng sabi ni Senator Pia, kailangan nakatungtong din ito sa mas pangmatagalang vision at innovation for the future of the education system,” Usec. Malaluan stressed.

He said the agency is set to implement blended and distance learning systems in line with the agency’s goal of delivering quality education to children that is geared for the future.

DepEd Undersecretary Nepo Malaluan: “Tulad ng sabi ni Senator Pia, kailangan nakatungtong din [ang mga pagbabago sa edukasyon] sa mas pangmatagalang vision at innovation for the future of the education system.”

DepEd is preparing to deliver different learning modalities to children during the crisis, which include printed modules, online learning resources, and television and radio instructions.

Cayetano added: “I am so happy that [DepEd under] Secretary Briones and I see eye-to-eye on these ideas. But we need to be able to translate this into actual action on the ground with our teachers [and society helping as a whole].”

“I trust that in the weeks and months to come, [we can cascade] all this information and bring our educators up to speed so the knowledge that [our children] will receive outside of the classroom is maximized,” added Cayetano, the principal author of three laws on flexible learning, including the Open High School System Act (RA 10665), Open Distance Learning Act (RA 10650), and Ladderized Education Act (RA 10647). #

Message to the Oplan Balik Eskwela virtual kickoff program

I’d like to send my warm greetings to Secretary Briones and to my colleague, of course, Senator Win Gatchalian, to my former colleagues in the House of Representatives and to all the whole DepEd family and stakeholders who are listening and watching us today.

Magandang umaga po sa inyong lahat.

I want to keep this very brief, but I’d also like to instill in the minds of every educator out there, and that includes also myself as a parent, that truly, the Bayanihan Spirit is called upon now more than ever to make our education effective for our young children.

I know that the urgent task at hand appears to be the delivery of the education materials. So we are now rushing to determine and to set into place other modes of delivery because the usual physical presence of the teachers and the students in the classroom setting will not be happening anytime soon.

However, I’d like to include in the discussion – and I know, of course, the Secretary and the Usecs. are on this – that beyond the simple delivery of education is our perennial problem on reaching every single child. Because we live in a time where we have all the data analytics, we have all the information that we need, the data. Learning analytics is available to us. We can measure, we can collect, we can analyze the data about every learner in order to optimize the learning for each child. And yet, our country, like many other countries, not just us, [is] still teaching in the mode of a hundred years ago, where there is a blackboard, there is a teacher, and there are students.

And we need to get past that. I want to be able to use this crisis that we are in to jump-start the education of the future. I am so happy that Secretary Briones and I see eye to eye on this, the Usecs. that attend our hearings are on board. But we need to be able to translate this into actual action on the ground with our teachers. We need them to understand. Because even I continue to see that image of a blackboard, a teacher, and students. There’s going to be quarterly exams, and there’s final exams.

But we have all the data that tells us that the learning curve shows that some are advanced and fast learners, and some are slow learners. And we need to get away from that, the model that we have because it perpetuates the stigma against slower learners, when they may not even be slow learners at all, they just may have other intelligence, multi-intelligence that are not seen on the spectrum immediately.

And that is why I have been a proponent for blended learning and I also want to be sure that in our haste to set into place this new modalities of delivery, we do not simply deliver education in a different format, meaning from blackboard it became a computer. Because that is not blended learning. We really need to make use of every instrument that we have, including the parents… every tool that we have, the parents, the society, retired teachers, all the tools available to us to reach children. And especially those children who live in urban centers. The information and knowledge that they receive outside of the classroom is so abundant that we also need to help them filter this and maximize those learnings outside of the classroom to make it relevant to them in the classroom.

I read a study that said the Math curriculum of the United States is “turn of the century,” 1900’s. US na nga ‘yun, ‘no? I don’t think we can say that mas advanced tayo sa US. So I also have concerns of that nature. And I trust that in the years to come, or actually, in the weeks and months to come… Because when I… we have hearings, I know and recognize that the DepEd officials know this. It’s really a matter of cascading all this information and bringing our teachers up to speed.

So I believe that is the bigger challenge. Not simply the fact that our students will not be able to go to the classroom, but the reality that we need to be able to reach every single child and to be able to deliver education to them at each level that each child needs to hear, needs to understand.

So on that note, I do believe that the best time for the Bayanihan spirit to come alive is now. A lot of people know the reality that great things happen in the time of crisis, great ideas come about in the time of crisis. And so I challenge and I support all the initiatives of DepEd to make the most of these challenging times and really revolutionize education for our young people today.

Thank you very much and God bless you all! #

Sen. Pia Cayetano said educators can turn current challenges into opportunities to jumpstart education for the future.

Pia: Bike lanes to protect delivery bikers, open new income opportunities for bike riders

Building safe networks of bicycle lanes in the country stands to benefit frontline workers, including those in delivery services for food and other essential items.

At the same time, bike lanes could open new income opportunities for Filipinos as essential services sectors have been employing bike riders for their short-distance deliveries.

This was among the key takeaways of Senator Pia S. Cayetano from her panel’s first public hearing on proposals to accelerate policies promoting sustainable transportation.

The Senate Committee on Sustainable Development Goals, Innovation, and Futures Thinking, which Cayetano chairs, conducted a hearing on Thursday (May 28) to discuss with government officials, advocacy groups, and other stakeholders the need for a comprehensive infrastructure plan for sustainable modes of transportation, including biking, walking, and non-motorized transportation (NMTs).

Among the senator’s proposals is the immediate establishment of pop-up bike lanes and walkways in Metro Manila’s major roads, following the imposition of safety restrictions on the public transport system that prompted more Filipinos to turn to alternatives like biking or walking.

Grab Philippines President Brian Cu, who was among the resource persons in the hearing, supported plans to improve the country’s road network for cyclists, stressing that it would benefit the company’s delivery partners who use bikes.

Around seven percent of GrabFood and GrabExpress active rider-partners are cyclists, Cu cited. Currently, they are allowed to accept bookings within a 1.5-kilometer radius, which is half the distance allowed for Grab riders using motorcycles (3 km).

However, Cu noted that both riders take the same delivery time on an average, one of the reasons for which is the lack of access to safe pathways for those using bikes. He also raised the issue of safety for Grab bikers.

As such, he said Grab Philippines is supportive of current proposals being heard in the Senate on setting up networks of protected bicycle lanes in the country, to be utilized during the pandemic and after.

“We support this discussion about creating specific pathways for bikers, so they don’t have to worry about their safety on the road. [Moreover,] it will definitely help speed up travel time [for Grab bikers] and potentially increase the radius that they cover, which leads to higher incomes,” he explained.

He added that apart from benefiting existing delivery partners, the initiative could also encourage more Filipinos to be Grab bikers.

“Adding safer networks of roads and better paths [for cyclists] can allow more individuals to join our platform. They can join at a very low cost, but still make very decent living,” Cu said, citing that Grab bikers earn around 45 percent above the minimum wage.

Grab Philippines President Brian Cu: “We support this discussion about creating specific pathways for bikers, so they don’t have to worry about their safety on the road.”

Cayetano, for her part, backed Cu’s statement on the need to improve our road system for cyclists to ensure their safety as well as to generate new and more livelihood opportunities for Filipinos during this health crisis.

“I am sure there are many more opportunities that we can give for Filipino cyclists, one of which is through your platform. But there are a lot of unmet needs as far as delivery by bicycles is concerned. I am happy to hear [your inputs] and be reminded of the need to address these,” Cayetano said.

“Now is really the time for people to have income opportunities. And something as basic as decent and safe biking skills could provide jobs for them… We have to be able to support them with the right infrastructure,” she added.

Senator Pia Cayetano leads the public hearing of the Senate Committee on SDGs, Innovation, and Futures Thinking from her home with her triathlon bike in the background.

The senator recently filed Senate Bill No. 1518 or the “Safe Pathways Act,” which seeks to create a network of pop-up bike lanes and emergency pathways connecting people to essential destinations during the lockdowns, while still ensuring that physical distancing is maintained.

Moreover, adequate parking spaces for bicycles and non-motorized vehicles shall be set up in all public places, government offices, schools, places of work, and commercial establishments, including malls, banks, and hospitals.

Lastly, the bill shall mandate appropriate government agencies to prepare the permanent adoption of the established bike lanes, emergency pathways, non-motorized parking spaces, and other appropriate infrastructure, after COVID-19 is no longer a threat. #

Food deliveries by bicycle in Singapore. Building a network of bike lanes in the country could encourage companies offering delivery services to hire more bike riders for their crew.

Pia bats for ‘hospital loops’: Prioritize bike lanes to protect frontliners

Senator Pia S. Cayetano is supporting a proposal that would prioritize the establishment of pop-up bicycle lanes and emergency pathways in roads connecting to hospitals, which will serve as safety loops for healthcare workers and frontliners reporting for work during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

The Senate Committee on Sustainable Development Goals, Innovation, and Futures Thinking conducted a hearing on Thursday (May 28) to discuss proposals seeking to promote sustainable modes of transportation in the country, including biking, walking, and non-motorized transportation or NMTs.

“We need to protect the people who protect us. I want to help address this need to establish safe pathways for our frontline workers.”

 

Dr. Antonio Dans, a professor at the University of the Philippines’ College of Medicine, made an appeal to government agencies to prioritize building a “loop” of bikeway systems that would link roads along several hospitals in Metro Manila.

Dr. Dans: Healthcare workers are in a “special situation” since they need to practice more safety precautions and social distancing measures in the time of COVID-19.

 

“My appeal is when we build these loops [of safe pathways], we think of our healthcare workers,” Dr. Dans said, noting that healthcare workers are in a “special situation” since they need to practice more safety precautions and social distancing measures in the time of COVID-19.

 

“Since we are [already] thinking about how to build these [bike lanes and walkways], maybe we can start in areas near hospitals to improve frontliners’ access [to their places of work],” he added.

 

The proposal seeks to benefit frontliners working in four hospitals in Manila: the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) along Taft Ave., the Ospital ng Maynila Medical Center along Quirino Ave., and the Manila Doctors Hospital and Manila Medical Center, both along United Nations Ave.

The 6-kilometer hospital bicycle loop proposed by Dr. Tony Dans.

 

The six-kilometer loop shall serve as a “safe haven” to ensure frontliners’ safety while going to work on their bikes. Dr. Dans said nearly a quarter of PGH’s hospital staff have requested for bicycles as their access to work had been limited due to the cancellation of public transport.

 

“We hope that our policymakers, the local government units (LGUs), and even officials at the executive branch, would give us this option to get to work safely during the COVID-19 crisis and after,” he said.

 

Cayetano, for her part, expressed her full support for the proposal, stressing that priority should really be given to initiatives that would ensure the safety of all frontliners who are leading our fight against the virus.

 

“We need to protect the people that protect us. I want to help address this need to establish safe pathways for our frontline workers,” she stated, adding that similar hospital loops can be allotted in areas with a big concentration of hospitals like Quezon City.

 

It should be recalled that last month, Dr. Maria Teresa Dajao, a medical officer of the Manila city government, was killed after she was hit by a truck while biking home from frontline duty.

Screengrab from the Philippine Star website

Cayetano recently filed Senate Bill No. 1518 or the “Safe Pathways Act,” which shall create a network of pop-up bike lanes and emergency pathways to connect people to essential destinations during the pandemic, all while ensuring that physical distancing is maintained.

 

She earlier said that the bill’s primary objective is to provide safe spaces and priority lanes for frontliners going to work through biking or walking. Some of these pathways may even directly lead to hospitals, Cayetano had earlier explained.

 

“We want to be able to protect all of our frontliners; even the hospital staff exposed to admin work and cleaning services, the security personnel, the barangays workers, and so on. We need to keep finding ways to keep them all safe, which also means keeping our roads safe for them to travel on,” the senator said.

 

Apart from her legislative work, Cayetano had started the Pilipinas In Action initiative, which recently launched the “Buy A Bike” project where donors can pledge for bicycle sets to be donated to COVID-19 workers. The initiative was able to donate bikes to PGH staff, in coordination with Dr. Dans.

Screengrab from pilipinasinaction.ph

 

Meanwhile, the senator also commended the PGH for its plan to construct its own bike parking lot for employees.

 

“We really have to be able to promote these sustainable modes of transportation in the country with the right infrastructure. We should seize this moment brought about by the crisis to foster this change now,” said Cayetano, who is also the principal author of the National Bicycle Act (SBN 285), and the Sustainable Transportation Act (SBN 66). #

 

Statement on Inquirer reporter’s tweets

“Never let a good crisis go to waste.” – Winston Churchill

I call out Mr. Marlon Ramos of the Philippine Daily Inquirer for his irresponsible & unethical tweet, wherein he twisted a statement I made during this morning’s Senate Committee on Health hearing.

During my manifestation, I was explaining how urgent the health bills I filed were and was giving context by saying that historically, health infrastructure and health needs were not prioritized. But this time of COVID-19 opened people’s eyes and gave us the opportunity to use the crisis to improve our healthcare system.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand my statement. But someone with a malicious mind like Mr. Ramos chose to use my words and give it a different meaning. Perhaps the Inquirer reporter did not bother to listen to my manifestation – which wasn’t even that long – or read the transcript, wherein I was referring to the improvement of healthcare, as attached to this post.

Clearly he chose to maliciously twist the sense of my manifestation, when he tweeted that I “welcome” the negative impacts of the pandemic on our economy, as well as on Filipinos’ lives. Who in their right mind would wish this upon anyone?

Years ago, I lost a child due to a genetic condition that he had since birth. I chose to cope with his death by helping other children in need. I ran and biked to raise funds for these kids. Despite the pain, I gave thanks to God and welcomed that time in my life because it brought so much good. Does it mean I’m happy I lost my son? Of course not.

It saddens me and at the same time outrages me that a reporter would choose to twist words to confuse people and impute malice on a statement urging support for better health infrastructure all over the country. I trust that the intelligent Filipinos know better than to give value to his twisted words.

COVID-19 an ‘eye-opener’ on the urgency to raise health infra budget

Senator Pia S. Cayetano stated that the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the need to address the gaps in the country’s healthcare system, as she pushed for measures seeking to ramp up health infrastructure for the safety and protection of Filipinos.

“COVID-19 opens our eyes and gives us that window of opportunity to provide the necessary funding, attention, and effort that our healthcare deserves,” the senator said during the Senate Committee on Health and Demography’s hearing on Tuesday (May 26).

“This pandemic has revealed many of the gaps in our system, gaps that have been created because of decades of lack of funding for healthcare,” added Cayetano, who formerly chaired the health panel in 2004.

The senator expressed hope that the health crisis today would bring forth reforms in the future and push the government to invest more in our healthcare system, particularly to build more adequate health infrastructure.

“Knowing how open-minded people are now and how much people see the importance of healthcare, there would be a much stronger support for whatever budget we would be proposing,” she stressed.

Last year, Cayetano filed Senate Bill No. 63, or the ‘Build, Build, Build for Health Infrastructure’ Bill, which mandates the Department of Health (DOH) to identify priority needs for health infrastructure, and establish a long-term plan to provide for health facilities in priority areas.

Under the measure, a proposed amount of P10 billion shall automatically be included in DOH’s annual appropriation for the next five years for the implementation of the infrastructure plan.

“My intention [in filing the bill was] very simple, that health infrastructure be included in the flagship projects of this administration in the remaining years that it has, and that this continues throughout the years,” Cayetano said during the hearing.

She stressed that ensuring adequate funds for health infrastructure is consistent with the newly enacted Universal Health Care (UHC) Law, Goal 3 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of which the country is a signatory, as well as the government’s own Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022.

Meanwhile, the senator pushed anew for the passage of another bill she filed, Senate Bill No. 1442, which seeks to provide for the establishment and operation of additional quarantine stations, grounds, and anchorages in all strategic areas in the country.

“This is a [Covid-response] measure that also will ensure that we are prepared for future health crises,” stressed Cayetano who now chairs the Senate Committee on SDGs, Innovation, and Futures Thinking.

She also expressed support for a proposal to authorize the DOH to set bed capacities in various public hospitals. Current regulations only allow the agency to increase bed capacity and improve service capability of hospitals through legislation.

“I am a big supporter of this, because what I have seen in all the years that I chaired the [Senate] Committee [on Health] was, nauuna po ang mga ospital na may masigasig na congressman o senador na tumutulong. Kawawa naman po ang mga tao o lugar na walang nagla-lobby para sa kanila,” Cayetano cited.

“Their need for healthcare is in no way diminished by the lack of a piece of paper filed in the House or in the Senate. That’s why I have always believed that DOH should be given full authority,” she further noted.#

Cayetano’s ‘Build, Build, Build for Health’ bill proposes P10 billion for DOH’s health infrastructure budget over the next five years.

Ensure safe pathways for frontliners, bikers, pedestrians

Senator Pia S. Cayetano reiterated her call for government agencies to come up with a holistic action plan governing the use of public roads and transportation during the ‘new normal,’ with priority given to frontliners and essential industry employees reporting back to work.

In an interview with One News’ Cito Beltran, the senator on Friday (May 22) talked about Senate Bill No. 1518 or the ‘Safe Pathways Act,’ which she filed this month to offer alternative modes of transportation and mobility for communities that are gradually being opened up following lockdowns due to the COVID-19 contagion.

Cayetano’s proposal seeks to create a network of pop-up bicycle lanes and emergency pathways that would connect people to essential destinations during the community quarantines, all while ensuring that physical distancing is maintained.

“It’s called the ‘Safe Pathways Act’ since our priority is to ensure the safety for our frontliners who need to get to work during this pandemic. Ideally, the safe spaces and priority lanes for those going to work through biking or walking should be color-coded or barricaded. [The pathways] may even directly lead to hospitals,” Cayetano explained.

She noted that major cities around the world are shifting to alternative modes of transportation, particularly biking, amid concerns that allowing cramped mass transportation systems could trigger a new wave of COVID-19 infections.

“All over the world, people are being more careful and authorities don’t want to risk resuming public transportation since the lack of social distancing leads to the faster spread of the virus. So we now have this golden opportunity to promote biking and walking,” she cited.

A cyclist and a long-time advocate of non-motorized transport, Cayetano stressed the need to set up safer pathways for bicycles and pedestrians as community quarantines are being lifted and public transportation is gradually being restored.

“It’s not just a matter of creating bicycle lanes, considering the way our streets are currently being used. Clear demarcation for cyclists and pedestrians is needed so they would not be eased out once there are more cars on the road,” she said.

She noted that during Tuesday’s hearing of the Senate Committee of the Whole, no less than Secretary Arthur Tugade gave senators the assurance that the Department of Transportation (DoTr) is including bicycles in its plan to establish safer transportation systems during the ‘new normal.’

“The DoTr gave assurance that they are handling it on a holistic level. Because if there would be no coordination involving other modes of public transportation, [then] it’s going to be hard to work because the space is limited,” Cayetano said, adding that the measure she recently filed is also in line with another bill she filed last year, the “Sustainable Transportation Act” (SBN 66).

SBN 66 promotes sustainable and alternative modes of transport – including walking, biking, and efficient mass transportation – to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, cut time and travel costs, and encourage citizens to take on an active and fit lifestyle. #

Healthcare worker uses a bike to get to her workplace.
Senator Pia S. Cayetano talks about her proposed ‘Safe Pathways Act’ (SBN 1518) in a video interview with One News/Agenda host, Cito Beltran
Cayetano’s proposal seeks to create a network of pop-up bicycle lanes and emergency pathways that would connect people to essential destinations.

Pia to DOT: finalize safety guidelines for tourism sector

Senator Pia S. Cayetano is calling for a detailed government action plan to help the country’s tourism sector adapt to the “new normal” following the disruption caused by COVID-19.

During the second day of the Senate Committee of the Whole hearing on Wednesday (May 20), the senator urged the Department of Tourism (DOT) to come up with a clear set of guidelines for the tourism industry, which should be in line with national and global health standards.

“The reality is, in order to get travelers and tourists to have confidence in our country, our health policies on COVID-related exposures should be consistent with what is set worldwide,” Cayetano said.

The senator also asked the DOT to start finalizing the guidelines for local travels. She said any best practices we intend to replicate from other countries should be properly evaluated to make sure they are effective and suitable in the Philippine context.

“There are practices out there that may be best for one country but not necessarily for ours. So we would like to know very specifically where any recommendation would come from so that we can assess. I know the pressure for our tourism sector to open up is there. I offer my support, but we also want to ensure that we keep safety in mind,” Cayetano noted.

“Maybe [the DOT] can identify the safe activities to do [in particular tourist destinations]. You may come up with strict guidelines early on so that when the time comes, whether it’s 60 or 180 days from now, we can be more ready and we don’t have to debate on it anymore,” she added.

As a response, DOT Undersecretary Art Boncato Jr. said the agency is set to roll out “omnibus revised tourism standards anchored on new normal standards, as espoused by the Department of Health and the World Health Organization, and also anchored on best practices all around the world.”

This covers areas of accommodation, tourist transport, restaurants, hotels, and tour guides, among others. The common themes expected to be included in the standards are protocols on social distancing, deep sanitation, protective gear, as well as investments of tourism stakeholders in health plans both for their employees and their guests.

In terms of accommodation, the DOT said it plans to mandate a maximum of double occupancy for all hotels. Restaurants, meanwhile, will be mandated to have a 50-percent occupancy for dine-in operations, Usec. Boncato said.

Sen. Pia Cayetano to DOT: “Come up with strict guidelines early on so that when the time comes [to open up tourism], we will be ready.”
File photo (2019): Senator Pia S. Cayetano meets with displaced workers of Boracay following the 6-month rehabilitation of the island, considered as the top draw of Philippine tourism.

Turn COVID crisis into an opportunity to shift to biking, walking, sustainable transport

Senator Pia S. Cayetano is urging the government to view the current COVID-19 crisis as a ‘golden opportunity’ to push for a shift to sustainable forms of mobility and transportation, including biking, walking, and other non-motorized means.

Cayetano stressed the point at the Senate Committee of the Whole hearing on Wednesday which tackled the status of government programs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We now have this golden opportunity to fast-forward ourselves into the future that should have been part of our present, which is the use of sustainable modes of transportation, including walking, biking, and other non-motorized vehicles,” explained the senator, a biking advocate and triathlete.

The senator said using a bicycle has particularly become essential for workers and frontliners because it offers a safe, efficient, and healthy mode of transport in the ‘new normal.’

She further noted that the current state of the country’s public transport system could not possibly accommodate the huge volume of employees projected to go back to work following the shift to modified enhanced community quarantine and general community quarantine status of several regions, including Metro Manila.

“We need more planning and coordination. [It is estimated that] 50-75 percent of the workforce can go back to work physically within a certain period of time. [But] there is no way that our public transportation, as it stands, can sustain them considering the [situation] we are in,” she explained.

“That is why the messaging and the planning for this shift to a sustainable program for transportation must be considered carefully,” she added.

In response, transportation secretary Arthur Tugade said his agency is ready to promote bicycles as an alternative means of travel during the new normal. He added that the Department of Transportation (DoTr) will submit to the Senate its detailed plan to implement this initiative.

The chair of the Senate Committee on Sustainable Development Goals, Innovation, and Futures Thinking, Cayetano has filed three bills promoting sustainable modes of transportation in the country, namely the Sustainable Transportation Act (Senate Bill No. 66); the Bicycle Act (SBN 285), and the Safe Pathways Act (SBN 1518), which seeks to set up pop-up bike lanes and emergency pathways for the use of frontliners and essential workers during the pandemic.
Meanwhile, Cayetano pressed various government agencies to fast-track the release of guidelines for the operation of public transportation, including the use of alternative modes of travel, in areas under community quarantine.

The senator has called on agencies including the Department of Interior and Local Government and the DOTr to hasten the issuance of guidelines for the use of public transportation, especially in Metro Manila.

“ [The plan] can elaborate what other agencies like DOLE and DTI, local government units, and groups directly working with companies can do to be more mindful of employees’ welfare while commuting to work,” Cayetano noted.

She said employees whose workplaces are within the immediate vicinity of their communities, like 10 kilometers below, should be supported to be able to walk and bike comfortably to work.

“We want to ensure that these people will be biking within a reasonable time, not three hours of biking per day. These are shifts made by other countries in the past. It requires a little bit more planning and rethinking. But this is the perfect time to do it,” she concluded.#

Cayetano: “The messaging and the planning for this shift to a sustainable program for transportation must be considered carefully.”
Cayetano: The COVID-19 crisis should be viewed by the government as a ‘golden opportunity’ to push for a shift to sustainable forms of mobility and transportation, including biking, walking, and other non-motorized means.
Cayetano: “The current state of the country’s public transport system could not possibly accommodate the huge volume of employees projected to go back to work.”