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Metro Manila public transport system not ready for return to in-person classes — commuter network

PHILIPPINE STAR/ MICHAEL VARCAS

A TRANSPORT advocacy network has warned that the current situation of public transportation in Metro Manila, the country’s capital region, is not yet ready for a shift to face-to-face classes.  

“The government should be wary of the additional demand to our already heavily-burdened public transport system,” The Passenger Forum (TPF) said in a statement at the weekend.   

Metro Manila or the National Capital Region, composed of 16 cities and one municipality within a 636-square kilometer area, has a population of almost 13.5 million as of 2020. 

“This problem needs to be addressed for us to successfully phase back into normal classroom-based education.” 

President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. last week announced that his government is targeting to fully implement in-person classes nationwide by November this year, citing his education chief.   

The group said the government should not ignore the connection between the transport crisis and the target to return to in-person classes. “Physical fatigue will add to the mental exhaustion of our students and teachers.”  

Another group, the Move as One Coalition, which has been asking the next administration to promote and set aside enough funds for active transport, has said the public transport sector is now in a “deadly spiral” and “collapsing.”  

Transport was the second biggest driver of overall inflation in May at a rate of 14.6%, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority.  

On the other hand, a group of 2,500 private schools on Sunday backed the administration’s plan to fully implement in-person classes nationwide, noting that its members have been preparing for the plan for months.   

“In general, we are ready to comply with the directive of the President to go back to full face-to-face classes until November,” the Coordinating Council for Private Educational Associations (COCOPEA) said in a statement.  

The group asked the government to expedite its vaccination efforts for members of the education sector. 

The government should also simplify and streamline procedures and requirements for the return to face-to-face classes to encourage more schools to participate in the plan, it added.  

“If face-to-face classes are to be mandated in September, private schools [should] still be given the flexibility to offer hybrid or full online classes,” it said. “The final decision on whether the learner returns to face-to-face classes or attends hybrid or full online classes [should also depend] on the parents.”  

In May, the government said about 73% of public schools in the country were already qualified for face-to-face classes.  

More than 34,000 schools have been nominated for the face-to-face classes as of May 26. Of these, 33,000 are public schools, while 1,174 are private schools.  

The Philippine government had ordered the closure of schools soon after a coronavirus pandemic was declared in March 2020. The country was the last in the world to reopen schools for physical classes. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza 

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