Air and land transport facing strong headwinds
MANILA – COVID-19 has not only resulted in serious health concerns but placed both air and land transport sectors on the survival mode with stringent health protocols enforced by different local government units across the country.
The local aviation industry was reported to have lost some P47 billion as of September 30 last year and with the expected increase in traffic due to the Christmas Season failing to materialize, one could surmise a year-long loss of at least P60 billion.
Speaking over Tapatan sa Aristocrat media forum Monday morning, Air Carriers Association of the Philippines Executive Director Roberto Co Lim said the Inter-AgencyTask Force on Emerging Infections Diseases (IATF-EID) should also consider the need for uniform health protocols to make domestic travel conditions lighter.
“Today you have for classifications of local travelers, the Authorized Persons Outside Residence (APOR), Locally-Stranded Individuals (LSI), Returning Overseas Filipinos (ROF) and domestic tourists,” Lim said. He explained different local government units have different requirements for domestic travelers which add to the burden of people wanting to travel.
He added Philippine Air Lines and Cebu Pacific have decided to cut their existing workforce to make their operations viable as they operate on 16% from the pre-COVID-19 conditions.
During the same forum, Engr. Alex Yague, Executive Director of the Provincial Bus Operations Association of the Philippines (PBOAP) said while the Land Transport Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) has approved several bus companies to ply their routes, the figures are wanting.
“Take the case of Baguio City where there used to be 249 existing bus franchises. Today they only have 10 operating. What used to be a single trip from Baguio to Sampaloc will now be three because provincial buses will only be allowed up to the terminal in Valenzuela and passengers will transfer to another bus to take them to Manila and another unit to reach home,” he said.
Asked if there will be bus companies whose assets will be foreclosed, Engr. Yague said while banks can foreclose buses, they cannot sell them to other companies.
“Unless the franchise has been included in the loan, banks may just be left with buses which they cannot sell,” he explained.
Both Mody Floranda, PISTON president and Pascual Magno, Jr., Stop & Go Coalition president said their members need to beg in the streets to survive. The areas where jeeps used to operate are now littered with buses.
“Ang malungkot niyan ay sa dating ruta ng mga jeep, nagpapasok ang pamahalaan ng mga bus,” Magno explained.
Floranda said he is of the belief the government is out to introduce the so-called modern jeeps with minibus seating capacity.
Meanwhile, Engr. Rene S. Santiago said the government must act fast enough to save whatever the air’s and land’s transport resources are.
“During the pandemic, people refrained from going out of residences due to fear of the deadly virus and so land transport was severely affected,” he explained. He called on the government to allow public utility jeepneys to ply their routes for the drivers and operators to make both ends meet.
He added the government should go slow on its modernization program especially during the time of the pandemic.
Engr. Alberto Suansing, Special Assistant to Transport Secretary Arthur Tugade said the government is aware of the difficulties mentioned by bus and jeepney operators. He made it clear he can only speak for the land transport industry.
He explained there are measures being prepared to assist the affected drivers, referring to the government-initiated subsidies for jeepney drivers who ceased to ply their routes.
“Jeepney operators need to consolidate or close ranks so they can avail of the incentives provided in the PUV modernization program,” Suansing said. To date, most jeepney operators and drivers are not making enough to go beyond survival mode.
At the regular press briefing in Malacañang, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said he will bring the air and land transport industries concerns to the IATF which will meet within the day as President Rodrigo Duterte is set to address the nation tonight. (Melo M. Acuña)