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.#