Philippines promotes walking, biking amid Covid-19 lockdowns


MANILA (Xinhua): The Philippines is encouraging its people to turn to walking and biking in moving around during and even after the Covid-19 outbreak.

By promoting active transport, the government aims to address the limitation of public transportation services and encourage more active lifestyles, especially during lockdowns.

The Philippines remains under varying restriction levels since the initial lockdown imposed in mid-March limited the public transport system.

"(Given) the ongoing threat of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is imperative that active modes of transport for commuters, including walking and bicycling, be promoted to safely reach their workplaces," said the joint administrative order released on Thursday by the departments of health, transportation, interior, and public works.

Philippine commuters, including medical frontliners and essential workers, struggle to get a ride to and from work due to spotty transportation even as the Philippines eased lockdown restrictions to reopen the economy.

The government released "guidelines on the proper use and promotion of active transport during and after the pandemic."

"As the country implements community quarantine to further mitigate the spread of Covid-19, our daily activities must adapt to the new normal," the Department of Health (DOH) said in a statement on Thursday, adding "the limited transport services paved the way for other modes crucial for essential travel."

The order urges national government agencies and local government units (LGUs) to build protected bicycle lanes and walking paths, and supportive infrastructure like bicycle racks and changing rooms.

Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade said the use of active transportation, such as biking and walking,"is a viable addition and sustainable supplement to existing modes of transportation."

"We acknowledge the health and environmental benefits it brings. It lessens air pollution that makes our immune system weak. This will play a role as we transition into the new normal," Tugade added.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque said the "use of alternative means of active transport" will "ensure that our health workers, frontliners, and other essential workers can safely get to their workplaces and destination."

Duque vowed to promote active transport even after the Covid-19 pandemic,"to encourage a more active lifestyle and safer roads for all."

"To weather the tides of this pandemic, all government agencies including LGUs should collaborate and unite to ensure the safety and health of every Filipino," Duque added.

Public Works Secretary Mark Villar said the move is "to provide viable options to our citizens especially for civilians who would opt to walk or use their bikes instead of vehicles."

The World Health Organization (WHO) has also advocated cycling and walking to limit physical contact to prevent and slow down the pandemic.

The Philippines now has 178,022 confirmed Covid-19 cases, including 114,114 recoveries and 2,883 deaths.

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