Press Release
May 20, 2020

Transcript of Sen. Pia Cayetano's statements & questions during the 2nd hearing of the Senate Committee of the Whole


SEN. PIA: I would like to direct my first question to IATF and DOTr. Earlier, Senator Grace asked about the preparations for the opening of the transportation industry, I suppose particularly for Metro Manila. I'd like to point out that for people to be comfortably able to travel using public transportation, it will be very important to plan and to coordinate this now including alternative modes of transportation.

We have this golden opportunity to fast forward and transport ourselves into the future that should've been part of our present, which is using sustainable modes of transportation including walking, biking and other non-motorized forms.

Many people in the past have told us, and if we can learn from those experiences, these kinds of crises give us that opportunity to make the shift...I do know that there are a lot of advocates for sustainable transportation including biking and walking who do want to hear if this is something that we are seriously considering

The second point I'd like to make is I personally feel we need more planning and coordination as far as our workforce is concerned because [we say that] 50-75% of the workforce can go back to work physically, in their physical structure, within a certain period of time. There is no way that our public transportation as is can sustain them. Hindi kaya ng ating public transportation... in the period that we are in now to sustain 50-75% of people going back using public transportation.

And that is why the messaging and the planning for this shift to a sustainable program for transportation must be done very carefully because otherwise, people will be rushing to work and they would still be in those lines, and those lines will just get longer and longer.

DOTR SEC. ART TUGADE says they are considering bicycles as an alternative mode of transportation; will submit to the Senate details on how to do this. There are studies being undertaken so DOTr can observe and follow the new normal in the realm of transportation: consolidating operators and rationalizing routes in NCR; establishment of dedicated lanes; GPS for PUVs; tracking automatic fare system, etc.

SEN. PIA: That is exactly the response I needed to hear.

I would like to get the details of that. And maybe one point that can be elaborated on is what discussions perhaps DOLE, DTI, and other groups directly working with companies and employees can do, including LGUs, on how we can be more mindful of people being able to work in their immediate vicinity - not less than 10km away. These are shifts made by other countries in the past. It requires a little bit more planning, rethinking. This is the perfect time to do it.

I know for a fact that the Mayor of Taguig, my brother, is already thinking that way because we want to promote biking. And yet we want to be able to ensure that these people will be biking within a reasonable time, not three hours of biking per day

I just like to put on record that I have three bills pending, which I hope we can hear soon: Sustainable Transportation Act, Bicycle Act, and the latest which is Safe Pathways Act, which prioritize bike lanes and walkways for those who are frontliners.

This also relates to my concern regarding transportation and the use of emergency pathways. I am not only referring to major roads and highways. I am also referring to barangays because people need to be able to move around and there is nothing wrong with using our feet and walking. It's not a punishment. It's something that I want us to be able to do comfortably.

So I just want to call on DILG also number one, to hasten the guidelines for the use of these alternative modes of transportation and number two, to keep us posted. I read somewhere that there are a number of cities in Metro Manila that are ready to open up medyo kinabahan ako doon kasi ano ang guidelines nila diba? Metro Manila is just one big metropolitan. Dapat pare-pareho tayo. Of course, I respect the autonomy of each city but my understanding is parang we heal as one in the sense na the rules should be pretty much the same, the timing, actual implementation may differ a bit but the guidelines should be pretty much the same. DILG says it will comply.

DILG says it will comply.


SEN. PIA: Just today, I received a copy of an independent report written by UP Professors... It talks about the reproduction rate. For those who are not familiar, the goal is to have a reproduction rate of the virus of less than 1%. So if we can have that reproduction rate of less than 1% then it's a sign that we can somewhat open up, that we are actually flattening the curve.

That's where I want to ask Sec. Vince Dizon to comment on this because the latest data I have... coming from the report, is we went down to under 1 and then right now, we're hovering just slightly above 1...  So that means we are flattening the curve. So once and for all, can I get a response from Sec. Dizon because my colleagues and I keep on asking similar questions. There's a debate...  This is an independent report that I'm quoting that is saying that kung tuloy-tuloy ang trajectory nito, we should be considered flattening the curve.

What other data should we keep in mind as we study this? Because on my own, when I try to assure people of the real situation, I think we should call a spade a spade, that we were very slow in coming up with the testing facilities, as many countries were. However, we are catching up and a big thanks to Sen. Gordon who contributed through his efforts the testing labs of PH Red Cross.

So Sec. Vince, can you just give us very clear facts on where we are today and what people can expect when it comes to testing?

COVID-19 RESPONSE DEPUTY CHIEF IMPLEMENTER SEC. VINCE DIZON said two groups are assisting gov't efforts: PIDS group in Ateneo led by Dr. John Wong and UP pandemic response team led by Mahar Lagmay and Ted Herbosa... Both of the groups do unequivocally say that the curve has flattened. The main metric is the reproduction rate or R0. Right now, we are slightly below 1 at .92, which is the ideal scenario of between .7 and 1 so that is a clear indication of that. Does that mean we are in a safe haven? Absolutely not, as we have seen other countries experience. There are instances especially in a transition phase from a very hard lockdown to where we are trying to head towards, there could be spikes.

What do we need to do to prepare for these potential spikes? We need to build the infrastructure to test. Testing is most important... testing is the foundation by which we prevent another spike. Second, we have to aggressively trace. And finally, we have to be able to treat and isolate and reserve our very limited space for critical and severe patients for those that will need it if and when we get to this spike...  For testing we are really doubling time... Humahabol po tayo ngayon siguro sa hirap na rin ng pag-manage ng una nating dinaanan noong Marso talagang kailangan pong mag-catch up nang mabilis ang ating capacity... And we are trying to do that. Sec. Galvez just made a report today of new machines. I think there are about 30 PCRs and about 30 automated extraction machines that arrived from both the private sector as well as PH Red Cross. Those machines are going to add so much capacity to us. It's just our ability to act swiftly and very decisively to deploy these machines to areas that most need them

SEN. PIA: May I just suggest to the entire IATF group that I think we can clarify our messaging better when we let people know that there is no manual. Walang nagsasabi na kapag ganito sara, kapag ganito bukas. Every single government all over the world is relying on data analysts, relying on scientists to help determine how much you can open, how fast, how soon you have to close again. And just because there may be instances, and I think it was Sec. Galvez who defined it very clearly earlier... there was a term that he used, parang may flexibility tayo. Ganun talaga ang mangyayari. So let's help people understand that yes, we wanna try to open up but be ready, because if we have to close down, it's just the way it is all over the world. It does not mean that we are a failure. Yes we may have made some mistakes in calculation, but it's just the way it has to be. So people understand. Kasi otherwise, we're grading ourselves, "pasado ka kung tama prediction mo, bagsak ka kung hindi tama." No one can predict this. So I feel that we have to be very persistent and candid about our explaining this to the people.


SEN. PIA: My next concern is regarding tourism.

I just want to share that I actually had the opportunity to join a webinar hosted by Financial Times... a big chunk of it was about tourism. And what was pointed out is that what we expect from tourism is number one [audio cut] number two young travellers, and number three, staycations. I know you are on top of your game so I have no doubt that if there are any good practices out there you'll be the first to implement it in our country. I just want to show my support but to also put on record that what I took away from that webinar was the reality that for people to have confidence in your country - and we are a tourism industry - is that the desire is that the policies, especially the health policies, for Covid-related exposures should be consistent with whatever is set worldwide.

There's really no point for us to reinvent the wheel... it becomes a burden pa nga raw for travellers whether it's business or pleasure to find out na iba kayo doon. You don't gain anything by being stricter by being more lax kasi it confuses the travellers. Is that something you want to be guided by?

DOT USEC. ART BONCATO JR. says DOT will roll out very soon omnibus revised tourism standard anchored on new normal standards as espoused by DOH, WHO, and also anchored on best practices around the world. That covers areas of accommodation, tourist transport, all meeting venues, restaurants, even tour guides will be guided by those standards. Sec. Romulo-Puyat instructed them to work closely with DOH and all major stakeholders of tourism. They have concurred with DOT's proposal and DOT expects to roll out that set of standards within the next couple of weeks to give time to all stakeholders to prepare and comply. Basic common themes we expect to see: social distancing, deep sanitation, protective gear, investment of tourism stakeholders in health plans both for employees and our guests. In terms of accommodations for instance, DOT will be mandating a maximum of double occupancy for all of the hotels. Restaurants starting with 50% occupancy in terms of operations for dine-ins.

SEN. PIA: When you show us the guidelines, can you indicate where these best practices [are from] or what the sources [are]. Because there are practices out there that may be best for one country but not necessarily for ours. Obviously, for the food and restaurant businesses we'd like to promote 50% occupancy or more, but I'd like to know if the WHO approves of that and maybe they approve of it but it has to have... We'd like to know very specifically where those recommendations come from so that we can also assess. Because I know the pressure for us to open up is there. I want to support also, but we also want to ensure that we keep safety in mind.

Can you also start planning for local travel, travel by land... At some point in time... the easiest way to support local tourism would be to get in your car with your family whom you are living with anyway and maybe drive to a destination. Then you can help tell us what are the safe activities to do there. If you're just gonna buy fruits and vegetables and overlook [sites]... Maybe you could really come up with strict guidelines early on so that when the time comes whether it's 60-180 days from now, ready na tayo we don't have to debate it anymore.

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