MANILA, Philippines – Senator Grace Poe on Wednesday urged the government to hire traditional public utility jeepneys that are compliant to safety protocols to augment the number of public utility vehicles (PUV) that will shuttle commuters to work amid the general community quarantine (GCQ).
In a statement, Poe said the government should all the more provide transportation options to the public given the limited capacities of PUVs to observe physical distancing measures.
Thousands of commuters have been struggling to get to their workplaces since the first day of GCQ in Metro Manila as authorities maintained that the resumption of mass transportation should be gradual.
“Malinaw na walang masakyan ang maraming pasaherong bukod sa nagtitiis sa kakahintay sa mahabang pila ay hindi rin siguradong makakarating sa kanilang pupuntahan,” she said.
During deliberations on the Bayanihan to Recover as One bill on Tuesday, Poe suggested that an amount be set aside for hiring of the additional shuttles, and that clear guidelines should be in place for the resumption of public jeepney operations.
The senator noted that since the start of the GCQ, only 90 buses are plying along EDSA as against the 3,500 buses running pre-quarantine.
With only 25 passengers per trip per unit, only about 20,000 passengers can be accommodated instead of the 250,000 before the lockdown.
“A line on the Department of Transportation spending should state that it will prioritize hiring of additional shuttles during our transition process into an eased quarantine,” Poe said.
She also proposed that the Department of Transportation (DOTr) maintains the status quo or ‘no phase out’ of old PUVs to prevent mass displacement.
At the same time, Poe asked the agency to directly subsidize drivers and buses and jeepneys that will be allowed operate during the transition period.
“This will enable PUV drivers to comply with social distancing measures without sacrificing financial viability,” she said.
Poe also asked for the prompt release of promised subsidies to PUV drivers and operators, who were left without income during the lockdown.
The senator also pushed for the inclusion of the department’s mandate to guarantee a masterlist of qualified transport service workers to implement the wage subsidies and cash-for-work program, and coordinate the accelerated distribution of the first and second rounds of subsidy under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.
Poe likewise pitched to negotiate the restructuring of existing loans and the provision of credit lines and interest-free loans of critically-impacted transport service providers, and facilitate the contracting of PUVs and other forms of emergency livelihood arrangements.
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