February 18, 2021
The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) sees the importance of expanding public transportation capacity and active transport support to provide mobility for employees going to their workplaces.
While economic activity has gradually increased since the peak of the community quarantines in the second quarter of 2020, Google Mobility data as of January 2021 shows that there are 30 percent less people reporting to work compared to the same period last year. The decrease is partially explained by employees who shifted to alternative working arrangements such as work from home. However, since only 12.5 percent of Filipino households have private cars, many people simply have no means to go to work.
“The data is alarming because we are also seeing a higher hunger incidence in Metro Manila. Many cannot earn because they cannot go to work or lost their jobs, and this means more Filipinos are going to bed hungry,” Acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick T. Chua said.
With a hunger incidence rate of 23.3 percent, about one in four people in the National Capital Region (NCR) experienced involuntary hunger, based on the November 2020 survey of the Social Weather Stations. This translates to about 780,000 families. On the other hand, areas outside the NCR, which are mostly under modified general community quarantine (MGCQ), have generally lower hunger incidence rates–16 percent in Mindanao, 14.4 percent in Balance Luzon, and 14.3 percent in the Visayas.
“Prolonged hunger can take away years of productivity and lead to malnutrition which may be passed on to their children and grandchildren. There are also many people who need income and access to hospital care for non-COVID reasons. The trade-off is not between health and economy, but between COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 threats, such as hunger, poverty, and other diseases,” Chua explained.
Given these, the NEDA chief proposed to the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on Emerging Infectious Diseases the increase of public transport capacity from 50 towards 75 percent, and expansion of inter-province bus operations to allow workers to go back to work, to be complemented by active transport support, such as bike lane networks. This will provide Filipinos with safer and more convenient options to go to work.
Chua is also promoting active transport within the agency. With the help of volunteer group Life Cycles PH, which donated eight bicycles for NEDA staff on February 16, 2021, NEDA will roll out an internal bike sharing system to further advocate alternative and environment-friendly transportation.
“According to a Department of Labor and Employment survey last September 2020, the main reason preventing workers from biking is that they do not feel safe traveling on the road. Personally, I started biking to work last month and I can do so safely because there are bike lanes in Ortigas Center. I hope to see more of these throughout the country to provide an alternate option to commute to work and encourage more active transport,” Chua said.
This recommendation is in line with the National Transport Policy‘s (NTP) vision of a “safe, secure, reliable, efficient, integrated, intermodal, affordable, cost-effective, environmentally sustainable, and people-oriented national transport system that ensures improved quality of life of the people.”
The NEDA Board resolution approving the NTP states that “the focus is moving more people than vehicles.” Environment-friendly transport systems shall be supported to promote sustainability and protection. The nonmotorized means include transit-oriented development, prioritization of pedestrians, provision of support facilities that mainstream gender considerations, and inclusion of green ways network, such as elevated walkways, covered walkways, sidewalks, and bike lanes.
“NEDA supports the creation of safe pathways for cyclists and pedestrians to make our streets safer and more accessible. This will make transportation in the country more inclusive and sustainable,” added Chua.
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