Leaders of organizations of differently abled persons in Cagayan de Oro City recently hailed the advent of the COMET (Community Optimized Electric Transport ) e-Vehicle as an “answered prayer” for their sector.

Touted as The First Sustainable Transport Ecosystem in the World, GET President Sigfrido Freddie R. Tiñga said, “Our business model has made GET a significant First Mover in electric mobility as a service (eMaas).”

The COMET e-Vehicle system is anchored on a “World-Class, Zero-Emission, 30-pasenger electric minibus developed by Formula-E racing engineers; a smart app-based fleet management and fare collection system that improves the customer experience and makes transport more intelligent and efficient; and a fast charger network which allows COMET  vehicles to operate on a near 24/7 basis and service clients day and night.”

“This can be a tool especially for those PWDs who are in remote areas to enable them to join the mainstream of our activities here in the city,” said Cagayan de Oro Federation of Persons with Disabilities Associations (CAFEDPA Inc) President Shirley P. Tabigne.

Environmental Activistt Inday Audrey Zubiri (center) with (L-R) PDAO Chief Ma. Liza Corpuz, CAFEDPA VP Rolando Damaolao, DAWN Pres. Melagros Maquilling & CAFEDPA Pres. Shirley Tabigne share a moment during the March 21st launch of the COMET EV in Cagayan de Oro.
(photo courtesy of Inday Audrey Zubiri)

“With the availability of this kind of transportation, they can be productive and employ their skills for gainful employment, now they have the means to come and go when and where they are needed,” she added.

 “Grabe kaayo kaanindot, it’s an answered prayer,” said Ms. Melagros M. Maquiling, Differently-Abled Women Network (DAWN) President. “For the longest time we have been waiting for such transports where we could freely move.”

However, she noted that the ramp for PWDs is a bit steep, and needs another person to push the wheelchair up as it is elevated. Ideally, the PWD would be able to embark and disembark on his own power. With the present state of our sidewalks and waiting stations with no provision for PWDs with wheelchairs, the driver has to go down to push them up.

DAWN President Melagros Maquiling being helped up the PWD ramp of the COMET EV during its March 21st launch in Cagayan de Oro City. (photo courtesy of Inday Audrey Zubiri)

“However, despite this, we are blessed that this will soon be available. Hopefully as time goes by, more PWD friendly features would be introduced such as body straps to anchor our wheelchairs, since PWDs could be thrown around the vehicle as these were not present in the demo EV.”

Following their first ride in the COMET, she perceived it was still not wide enough to move about freely, and hopefully future units would provide for spaces for one or two PWDs near the ramp. Not the least, she hopes queues at PUV terminals will be policed to prioritize PWDs, Seniors and pregnant women.

“Government should also be more proactive in making public transport more accessible for these sectors,” she stressed.

Ms. Maquiling is also the Vice Chair of the Social Development Committee of the Regional Development Council Region X (RDC-X) and member of local council of the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC).

Mr. Tiñga concurred with their observations and likewise noted that despite the mandate of the LTFRB, the COMET is still the only Modern PUV/EV with PWD access with its slide out ramp.

We have a reserve slot for PWDs, but  if there are more, they can park their wheelchairs in the aisle, he said.

“We wanted a narrower vehicle but our European partners said no, we have to follow international standards for PUV access which provides enough room for them to maneuver their wheelchairs.”

Based on international standards of UNECE Regulation M2, the PNS2126:2017 requires a floor to ceiling height of 1.75 meters to allow for additional standing passengers for Class 2 and Class 3 PUVs, which the COMET exceeds by a wide margin with its 2.8 meter floor to ceiling height.

Abner Manlapaz, president of the Life Haven Independent Living Center, earlier urged the Land Transportation and Franchising Regulatory Board (LTFRB) said designs for the Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program should ensure accessibility for all PWDs.

Besides a ramp or lift, Manlapaz said Modern PUVs should have spaces for wheelchairs with safety accessories like belts, clamps, grab bar; audio announcement system; and visual announcement system.

Terminals should also be PWD-friendly, with accessible facilities not limited to toilets, ticketing counters, waiting lounge, parking /drop off space for persons with disabilities; directional tactile in appropriate areas; and visible signages.

He  stressed LTFRB should also require sensitivity training for PUV drivers, operators and frontline to better empathize with the special needs of the sectors.

At present, he said that the only accessible bus operating around the metropolis and nearby provinces are the point to point shuttle services.

Modern PUV should have seats that conform to international standards of 40 centimeters per passenger, (seated or standing). Even the width, depth, height, armrest and distances between seats are determined and standardized to ensure the comfort and safety of the passengers.

The doors, windows, gangways, hand rails, stepboards, external protrusions all around and the driver’s line of sight are all specified based on international standards as well.

Despite all these, the Cagayan de  Oro Persons with Disabilities Affairs Office (PDAO) still welcomes the COMET’s advent as a step in the right direction.

PWD Leaders welcome COMET EVs to CDO (L-R) CAFEDPA VP Rolando Damaolao, DAWN President Melagros Maquiling, CAFEDPA President Shirley Tabigne & PDAO Chief Maria Liza Corpuz (RMB)

“COMET offers solutions to the challenges people with mobility concerns face every day,” said Maria Liza Corpuz, PDAO Head. With COMET they can go to places they wish with minimal inconvenience and do away with the high cost of taxi fare,” she noted.

With no provision for PWD access in traditional jeepneys and Euro 4 Modern PUVs, taxis are the only albeit expensive mobility option open to PWDs within the city at present.

“COMET also has this app that enables the passenger to monitor when the bus is coming, so they need not wait too long on sidewalks. COMET’s vision is aligned with the city government’s goal of bringing its services closer to the people and better lives for all. COMET indeed is such a relief and another milestone for the PWD sector.”



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