The ongoing pandemic may have put an unceremonious halt to many of societies’ activities, particularly those relating to the tourism and transport industries. The Department of Transportation (DOTr), however, has assured the public that Covid-19 won’t hinder its plans to build more infrastructure. So, when the time comes that the virus has been subdued and properly managed, and the people are all set for the “new normal”, we’ll be welcomed with improved transport systems and establishments across the country.
Today, the DOTr and the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) inaugurated another vital port project in Bohol with the completed second Passenger Terminal Building (PTB) of the Port of Tagbilaran.
In a statement sent to Inquirer Motoring, DOTr said the PTB is an “important milestone” for Tagbilaran City’s main seaport after it sustained significant structural damage from a strong earthquake in 2013.
Today’s inauguration marked the official start of operations of the new PTB, whose construction was completed on Oct. 31 last year and has been meant to augment the passenger capacity of the Tagbilaran Port and to provide the public with more comfortable and convenient sea travels.
DOTr Secretary Arthur P. Tugade and PPA General Manager Jay Daniel Santiago led the inauguration.
The old PTB of the Tagbilaran Port can accommodate 497 passengers. The new PTB, which can handle 613 more passengers, brings the total passenger capacity of the port to 1,110. In addition to the new two-story PTB, the PPA also constructed a pump house, installed concrete pavements, and built lamp post foundations at the port.
DOTr said it has set its sights next to the completion of another big-ticket infrastructure project—the Port of Maribojoc, also in Bohol.
The Maribojoc port was also devastated by the 2013 Bohol earthquake. With works in full swing, the Maribojoc Port Improvement Project is over 95-percent complete as of March 2021.
The new Maribojoc Port will serve as an alternate cargo port for the province. Once completed and operational, the port will significantly decongest the current traffic at the Tagbilaran Port.
Updates on railway cases
Meanwhile, DOTr also provided updates on the Covid-19 cases in railway lines after the mass testing done to the majority of employees.
As of 5 p.m. of April 12, there were 120 positive cases in Light Rail Transit-1 out of the 794 tested. LRT-1 has 1,185 personnel; 251 positive cases in Light Rail Transit 2 out of the 1,870 tested. LRT-2 has 1,944 personnel; 208 positive cases in the Metro Rail Transit line 3 out of 936 tested. MRT-3 has 3,284 personnel. The Philippine National Railway has 208 Covid-positive personnel out of the 1,252 tested. PNR has 1,829 personnel.
Tugade has ordered the mass testing of railway personnel, based on risk and targeted approach, and instructed railway operators that the following personnel would be required to immediately undertake the necessary isolation and quarantine:
– Those who tested positive
– Those who are still awaiting test results
– Those identified as close contacts of confirmed cases
– Employees exhibiting any symptom of Covid-19
Following the resumption of operations on April 5, the MRT-3 has been running under limited capacity, with the deployment of up to 12 trains, while the LRT-2 line has been dispatching five trains, and the LRT-1 17 trains.
Meanwhile, PNR resumed operations yesterday, April 12, following the completion of mass testing of its personnel, as well as re-integration procedures last weekend, and has deployed up to 12 trains.
The DOTr road sector has deployed additional PUVs along the rail line routes to ferry affected passengers to their destination.
Other initiatives during the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) phase that have continued during the modified ECQ (MECQ) are the free rides for health workers, medical frontliners, and authorized persons outside of their residences (Apors) in jeepneys operating within the LTFRB Service Contracting Program.
1,000 seafarers up for isolation
DOTr’s maritime sector, consisting of the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina), Philippine Ports Authority (PPA), and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), has facilitated the arrival of approximately 1,000 Filipino crew members aboard MV Norwegian Encore at the Port of Manila on April 11.
According to PPA Port Manager Eligio P. Fortajada of the Port Management Office (PMO) NCR-South, and who also heads the One-Stop Shop for Seafarers in the Port of Manila (OSS-POM), the repatriated Filipino seafarers, who all underwent profiling from the Department of Health (DOH), would have to undergo the mandatory quarantine and testing protocols set by the national government before disembarking. The vessel will be used as the quarantine facility under the strict supervision of the Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ). In accordance with the crew change protocol of the government, the seafarers shall undergo swab testing on the sixth day of their quarantine proper, which will be handled by the PCG and the First Aide Molecular Laboratory, the RT-PCR molecular testing laboratory authorized by the national port authority.
BOQ-supervised doctors and nurses would be onsite to assist the seafarers. Expenses for the swab tests will be subsidized through the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Republic Act No. 1149, facilitated by the PPA. Under this law, the Philippine government has allotted P270 million for the free RT-PCR testing of returning Filipino seafarers to alleviate the negative impact of Covid-19 to the seafaring industry.