Seven months into lockdown, more than 100,000 drivers of traditional jeepneys are still jobless amid the current health crisis as the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) is yet to reopen their routes.
Mody Floranda, national president of transport group Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide (PISTON), said there are currently 260 routes covering 59,000 jeepneys that are still not allowed to ferry passengers again despite the relaxed community quarantine imposed in most areas.
According to Floranda, this equates to almost 118,000 drivers who are still left without a livelihood in the midst of the economic crisis and the pandemic.
Floranda reiterated his group’s call for the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and the LTFRB to open all routes and allow all PUVs to operate, especially now that the demand for public transportation is high as many workers are continuously going back to their workplaces.
“Also, immediately implement the provision of assistance to drivers, operators, and citizens because even when we resume our operations, we still do not have enough income to meet the soaring commodity prices in the market,” he said in Filipino.
The transport group leader also urged the government to implement a rehabilitation program for PUVs in place of the PUVMP and to really address the needs of the riding public.
“Ang nais lamang namin ay makapagbigay-serbisyo sa mga manggagawa at komyuter na araw-araw nahihirapan maghanap ng masasakyan dahil sa hindi makatuwirang pagbabawal ng gobyerno. Hindi na lamang po ito usapin ng aming kabuhayan kundi ng papel ng pampublikong transportasyon upang makatulong sa nagaagaw-buhay nating ekonomiy,” Floranda emphasized.
(We just want to serve the workers and commuters who are having difficulty in finding vehicles every day due to unreasonable government bans. This is no longer just a matter of our livelihood but of the role of public transportation to help our dying economy.)
He also recognized the successful protest action held by members of PISTON in Caloocan last June, which he said has moved the government to start opening more PUV routes, especially in Metro Manila.
The transport sector has been among the hardest-hit by the enforcement of the enhanced community quarantine mid-March which mandated a suspension on all forms of public transportation, cutting the main source of income of thousands of PUV drivers and operators and left many of them begging in the streets for money and food.
When travel restrictions have been lifted during the general community quarantine (GCQ) in June, traditional jeepneys were the last to resume operations among mass transport options.
The LTFRB explained that traditional PUJs are placed at the bottom of the “hierarchy” of public transport due to its limited capacity and lack of contactless payment features required for the “new normal” in the transportation sector.
Based on the latest data from the LTFRB, the Board has so far approved more than 85,000 units of various PUVs since the enforcement of GCQ which allowed public transport to return on the roads after months of hard lockdown.
This includes the 865 modern PUJs to ply 48 routes; 4,447 public utility buses in 34 routes; 305 provincial buses in 14 routes; 387 point-to-point buses in 34 routes.
The transport regulatory body also approved a total of 20,964 taxi and 25,068 Transport Network Vehicles Services (TNVS) units to ferry passengers in the capital region.