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The two sides of Cebu City’s 1st day under GCQ 

By: Morexette Marie B. Erram - Multimedia Reporter - CDN Digital | June 01,2020 - 09:24 PM
Vehicles start to pile up at N. Bacalso Avenue past 5 p.m. on the first day of the General Community Quarantine (GCQ) in Cebu City. | CDN Digital Photo Gerard Vincent Francisco

Vehicles start to pile up at N. Bacalso Avenue past 5 p.m. on the first day of the General Community Quarantine in Cebu City. | CDN Digital Photo Gerard Vincent Francisco

CEBU CITY, Philippines — On the eve of Cebu City’s general community quarantine (GCQ), Van (not his real name) contemplated walking from Barangay Guadalupe to a mall in North Reclamation Area (NRA) where he worked.

Van said he woke up at 5 a.m. on Monday, June 1, which is earlier than his usual schedule, in anticipation of limited public transportation.

Unfortunately, he was unable to show up at his workplace because there were no public utility vehicles (PUVs) when he got out of his boarding house, and even when he walked a couple of kilometers towards NRA. 

READ Van’s first part of the story here: Transportation uncertain for some Cebu employees returning to work on June 1

“I waited for hours on the road, since 5:50 a.m., for a ride. I started walking from Guadalupe Church to Escario Street after waiting for more than one hour in Barangay Guadalupe,” Van told CDN Digital in Cebuano. 

He said he should be able to clock-in by 9:00 a.m. But when he reached Barangay Kamputhaw in Escario Street, it was past 8:30 a.m. already. 

“I estimated that it would take me two hours to walk from Guadalupe Church to NRA. But it was beyond 8:30 a.m. when I got to Escario Street. I had no choice but to quit walking further, and headed back to my boarding house,” Van said. 

An approximately six-kilometer distance sat between Van’s rented room in an apartment building in Barangay Guadalupe and his workplace at the NRA. The mall employee said he texted his supervisor about what happened. 

But apparently, Van was not the only Cebuano who was left stranded in the streets for several hours. He added that some of his co-workers were also unable to report to work and that there were others he knew had to depart from Cebu province. 

“I know I wasn’t the only one. When I queued in the usual bus stop at Guadalupe, there were dozens of us waiting for any vehicle to take us to our offices,” said Van. 

Limited Public Transportation

At 12:01 a.m. on Monday, Cebu City officially transitioned to GCQ or also dubbed as the ‘new normal’. Under GCQ, public transportation is expected to resume but in limited capacity only. 

READ MORE: IATF Oks request to put Cebu City under GCQ

In Cebu City, only a few PUVs were sighted on the streets.

Lawyer Rey Gealon, spokesperson of Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella, announced in a live press conference that they had identified an initial 17 routes where public utility vehicles (PUVs) would be operating. 

At least one route for PUVs covered where Van lived. 

Gealon added that a total of 221 PUVs, a mix of buses and modernized public utility jeepneys (PUJs), would be used in these identified routes, which were jointly crafted by traffic and planning officers from the city government, and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board in Central Visayas (LTFRB – 7). 

These PUVs’ will run from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m.

However, the City Legal Officer said not all vehicles would be deployed at once, which would explain why PUVs in Cebu City’s first day under GCQ were rarely seen. 

“…our good mayor is asking for everyone to extend their patience as adjustments are made along the way to improve our situation,” Gealon said in Cebuano. 

READ MORE: Cebu City bares PUV routes for ‘new normal’

Eduardo Montealto Jr., director of LTFRB – 7, also said not all PUVs in Cebu would be dispatched during the first day of GCQ. 

Montealto said limited public transportation would be expected in areas that recently downgraded its quarantine status. 

“For our passengers, especially those who are excited to go back to work, we ask you to extend your patience… Our PUVs, we will be deploying them gradually in order to prevent overcrowding,” he told CDN Digital in a separate phone interview. 

Both Gealon and Montealto also encouraged the public to brace for several adjustments in their commuting, particularly that the PUVs would only load and unload passengers in designated stops. 

“We advise everyone to start looking for the routes between your homes and offices and identify the nearest stops. If we have to walk to the nearest stop, then let’s do so,” said Montealto in Cebuano. 

The LTFRB-7 top official also said that their agency had been continually monitoring the behavior of Cebu’s public transportation, workers, and residents.

Montealto said they would be adding more routes as the city would move on in its first few days under GCQ. 

“We have issued more special permits for PUVs (on Monday), and we’re hoping that by Wednesday (June 3) or within the later part of this week, we can see an improvement,” he said. 

Van, on the other hand, said he was looking forward to more PUVs on the roads so he could go back to work without the need to walk around six kilometers from where he lived. 

In the meantime, he said he would be studying the routes released by the Cebu City government and LTFRB-7 to plot out his commute options in case things will not turn out to what he hoped for. 

“My preparation also includes waking up earlier than 5 a.m. because I’m planning to start walking by 5 a.m. in case the buses in our area will not arrive yet. It’s better to walk when the sun hasn’t come up,” Van said. 

Meanwhile…

While Van was struggling to find a ride in the streets of uptown Cebu City on Monday morning, more than 10 kilometers south, at the checkpoint bordering Talisay City in South Road Properties (SRP), northbound vehicles trying to access the province’s capital lined up at Cebu South Coastal Road (CSCR).

As hundreds of individuals rushed to get back to work now that the entire island had been under a more relaxed GCQ, several areas in Cebu City had experienced traffic, the Cebu City Transportation Office noted. 

The CCTO, in a Facebook post, said that a surge of vehicles coming out and running down the roads resulted in traffic early Monday morning. 

This despite the fact that the city’s number coding scheme has remained in effect throughout its GCQ phase. 

READ MORE: Labella: Curfew, number coding, Carbon Market schedules to remain while city is under GCQ

“Karung Hunyo Uno nga gilibkas na ang ECQ (enhanced community quarantine) ngadto sa GCQ, grabe na ang pag panggawas sa sakyanan. Gani nakasinati na og paghuot sa trapiko sayo palang sa buntag. Among ipahibalo nga wala gi-libkas namo ang coding. Padayon kami sa pag pa implementar niini,” CCTO said in their post.

(On June 1, when ECQ was downgraded to GCQ, a lot of vehicles poured on the streets. In fact, we even experienced several road congestions early in the morning. We would like to remind everyone that the number coding scheme has not been lifted. We will still implement it.)

CDN Digital reached CCTO multiple times for further details on their statement but to no avail. 

But photos compiled and taken by CDN’s team during the morning of Cebu City’s first day under GCQ showed that most, if not all, vehicles plying on major thoroughfares where there’s traffic was a mix of privately-owned ones, and trucks delivering goods. 

“Amo sab giawhag ang mga motorista nga dili lang unta ta magsige og gawas kung wala lang jud importanteng paliton para makalikay kita niining virus ug safe atong pamilya kun sa balay ra kita magpundo,” CCTO added.

(We also urge motorists not to go outside frequently unless they have urgent matters to attend to. Let us stay at home in order for us to prevent ourselves from getting infected with the virus and keep our families safe.) /dbs

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