Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (File photo)

MANILA – President Rodrigo R. Duterte said the government is “very careful” in ensuring the health and safety of passengers of the Metro Rail Transit – Line 3 (MRT-3).

Duterte made this statement after MRT-3 operations were temporarily suspended for five days starting Tuesday following the increasing number of personnel, including ticket sellers, who have tested positive for the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).

“So we are very careful na pati ‘yung (that even) those manning those equipment there will not jeopardize or put you in jeopardy while riding the trains,” he said in a taped public address aired early Wednesday.

Duterte assured that MRT-3 operations would only resume once a sufficient number of MRT-3 personnel test negative for Covid-19.

He acknowledged that shutting down MRT-3 operations would mean a shortage in public transport but explained that there would be bus augmentation available for passengers.

On Monday, the MRT-3 management announced the closure that would enable its entire workforce of more than 3,200 employees to undergo testing.

The MRT-3 management said it would require at least 1,300 workers to be able to resume limited operations.

The testing for MRT-3 personnel will be conducted by the Philippine Coast Guard at the Palacio de Maynila swabbing center, with assistance from the Philippine Red Cross.

Transportation Undersecretary TJ Batan earlier allayed concerns among passengers who had used the MRT-3, saying station personnel wore full personal protective equipment (PPE) suits to reduce the risk of infection.

Meanwhile, Duterte said he was also “happy to repeat” the news that the government has lifted the ban on non-essential travel and outbound travel of Filipinos.

He, however, reminded them to ensure that the conditions for outbound travel, such as the submission of confirmed round-trip tickets for those traveling on tourist visas, adequate travel and health insurance to cover rebooking and accommodation expenses if stranded, hospitalization in case of infection, and execution of a declaration acknowledging risks involved in travel are met.

“Medyo mabigat ito (This is a little heavy). Ewan ko (I don’t know) how much would be added to your expenses but itong insurance mabigat ito na kung while in travel magkasakit ka (this insurance is heavy in case you get infected while traveling),” Duterte said.

On Tuesday, Malacañang announced that non-essential and outbound travel will now be allowed under Resolution 52 of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease. (PNA)