It’s official, the National Capital Region (NCR) will shift from Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ) to General Community Quarantine (GCQ) starting June 1. This follows after Metro Manila Mayors agreeds to lift the MECQ, and after the confirmation and decision from President Rodrigo Duterte last night. That means restrictions will be eased in Metro Manila, and public utility vehicles (PUVs) will be available for commuters to use.

But what exactly can the riding public expect come June 1? Well, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) recently released the guidelines for the road transport sector to clarify everything.

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As mentioned before, PUVs will only be allowed to ferry passengers at 50% capacity. From June 1 to June 21, only train and bus augmentation services, taxis and TNVS, P2P buses, and bicycles will be allowed to ply the roads.

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Then on June 22 to June 30, public utility buses (PUBs), modern PUVs, and UV Express vans will be allowed to operate again. Provincial buses, however, will not be allowed to enter Metro Manila just yet. Interestingly, the DOTr may have forgotten to include the older jeepneys in their inforgraphic; it only mentioned PUBs, Modern PUVs, and UV Express.

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To ensure the health and safety of commuters riding in PUVs, the 1-meter social distancing measure will be strictly enforced inside all public vehicles. In addition, the wearing of face masks is also required in adherence to health protocols.

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Cashless forms of payment like automatic fare collection and electronic toll collection will also be introduced and encouraged in order to minimize the chances of transmitting the disease between individuals. Alcohols and hand sanitizers shall also be provided in PUVs.

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Aside from releasing the transportation guidelines, the DOTr also shared the transformation plans for EDSA. Under the agency’s proposed design, there will be dedicated lanes for bicycles, pedestrian crossings, segregated bus lanes, and even boarding areas for passengers.

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As earlier reported, the bus lanes will no longer be on the right as they will be moved towards the left-most lane. In addition, there will be a planned total of 11 bus stations on the northbound side and 15 bus stations on the southbound side.

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Other changes the DOTr will implement under the ‘New Normal’ transition will include:

- Routes Rationalization for more effective traffic management;

- Industry Consolidation, to make it more efficient and financially tenable for stakeholders;

- The use of shuttle services to prevent students and employees from contracting the virus will also be encouraged;

- Promotion of the use of non-motorized transport or use of bicycles, to maintain physical distancing, provide environmental and health benefits, and promote efficient road space use.

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A key digital initiative developed by the Land Transportation and Franchising Regulatory Board (LTFRB) will be adopted come June 1. It is called the Public Transport Online Processing System (PTOPS) and it will allow transactions to be made online which will make LTFRB services faster and accessible for all stakeholders. The system will initially be available to run in Metro Manila.

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As for driving, residents in GCQ areas are allowed to head out except for individuals that are aged below 21, as well as those aged 60 and older. Quarantine passes will no longer be required under GCQ rules, and inter-island travel is now allowed once more.

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With the NCR, Region 2, Region 3, Region 4-A, Albay, Pangasinan, and Davao City set to shift to GCQ next week, citizens will have to face the new normal while the country is still experiencing COVID-19 cases.

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It looks like a lot to take in, but it's probably the best that we can work with for now. Until everything goes back to what we are used to as "normal", we'll just have to do our part for society. Follow the rules, be patient, be mindful, and most importantly, be smart about safety under the new normal.