• Melo Acuna

Land transport sector expresses concerns of their future

Jeepneys and buses ask: “What about us?”

MANILA – With the national government’s decision to implement a Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine in densely populated National Capital Region, Laguna Province and Cebu City by Saturday, May 16, and the economy slowly but surely on its way to reopening, jeepney drivers and operators and bus companies have begun asking what’s in store for them and their families.

Alex Yague, executive director of the Provincial Bus Operators Association of the Philippines (PBOAP), said with the new standards up for implementation, their revenues would suddenly be cut by half.

“The social distancing and other COVID-19 preventive measures will mean more expenses and with limited trips and passengers cut by half, operations may no longer be viable,” he said at Wednesday Roundtable @ Lido (Virtual Edition) earlier today. He said industry estimates that about 1,000 buses are currently financed by banks and other institutions. With limited trips, operators may not have the capacity to pay their regular amortizations.

He added a brand-new bus costs an average of P8 million.

Fleet operators employ at least 14,000 drivers and an equal number of conductors, inspectors, mechanics and other workers. He lamented the experience of drivers and other transport workers who have been denied of the government’s Social Amelioration Program because they are regular employees.

“Most of our drivers and conductors are on ‘no trip-no pay’ arrangement and with employers advancing their 13th month pay as well as sick leaves, the government should consider the plight of our workers, too,” Yague said.

As far as Mrs. Zenaida Maranan, president of the Federation of Jeepney Operators and Drivers Association of the Philippines is concerned, she is alarmed of the possibility they would no longer be allowed to ply their routes as soon the quarantine restrictions because of the preference for the “modernized” jeepneys.

“Most of our drivers and operators have not received the needed assistance from the national government. We have heard of accounts of preferential treatment extended to allies of the sitting city, town or barangay officials,” she added.

PISTON’s Mody Floranda said his group doesn’t mind the additional expenses expected with the basic minimum health standards that would be required of public transport. He said his members could manage the additional costs, but they should be allowed to ply their routes for them to earn their keep.

“We have been told only a few of us could resume trips and that we should apply for special permits from the Land Transport Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) and only a few would be allowed to resume operations.

He echoed Ms. Maranan’s call for the immediate and equal distribution of benefits from the national government.

“It we are to cut passengers by 50 percent, may we ask the government to pay the remaining 50 percent of our boundary,” Floranda added.

Both Ms. Maranan and Mr. Floranda said they have about 100,000 members nationwide.

Former LTFRB chair and LTO Assistant Secretary Engr. Alberto Suansing said the SAP distribution is the responsibility of the Department of Social Welfare and Development and not the Department of Transportation.

“Our job is to submit the list to the DSWD for them to appropriate funds for the beneficiaries,” Engr. Suansing said. He is Secretary Tugade’s special assistant. He explained there will be changes in the routes despite the existing franchise.

“The government wants to streamline the transport sector through the route rationalization to make transport industry more viable,” he added. The route rationalization supersedes existing franchise, he further explained. (Melo M. Acuña)

FEJODAP's Zenaida Maranan, PBOAP Executive Director Alex Yague, PISTON's Mody Floranda and DoTR Special Assistant Engr. Alberto Suansing. (Grabbed photos from Wednesday Roundtable @ Lido/Melo M. Acuna)


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