Ahead of the President’s 5th State of the Nation Address, commuter, transportation, and labor groups called on President Rodrigo Duterte to stop the implementation of the public utility vehicle (PUV) modernization program, as the country continued to reel on the effects of the pandemic.
In a statement signed by 25 groups and unions, they strongly urged the President to slam the brakes on the PUV modernization program and instead work on a more comprehensive plan together with stakeholders.
“We challenge the government to take the responsible route of modernizing transportation. We call on them to return jeepneys and buses to their previous routes with the necessary support to ensure health standards, and to protect the rights and tenure of transportation workers and commuters,” said Ed Laurentio of the National Land Transport Union.
The Department of Transportation implemented a so-called “gradual and calibrated” approach on the resumption of mass transportation when Metro Manila was placed under the more relaxed general community quarantine.
This approach placed traditional jeepneys at the bottom rung of the hierarchy, as well as slashed the number of routes and units of jeepneys allowed to ply the road. Transport groups have long protested this policy, leading to the arrest of some jeepney drivers who allegedly violated physical distancing and mass gathering protocols.
The groups said that they wanted the transportation system to be modernized too, but not at the expense of their livelihood.
“As drivers and commuters ourselves, we understand the transportation needs of people today and we, too, want better mobility systems,” said Alex Yague of the Provincial Bus Operators Association of the Philippines (PBOAP).
“We can only achieve a sustainable and efficient transport sector through a just transition – one which includes all stakeholders in every step of the process, from the decision-making in modernization plans to the reaping of benefits,” Yague added.
Public transportation is seen as a vector of infection so the Inter-Agency Task Force banned mass transportation during the lockdown. Even if public transportation is now allowed, current protocols require PUV drivers and operators to limit the vehicle capacity to only 50%.
To add, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board has so far allowed some 6,002 of 55,000 jeepney drivers on Metro Manila roads, as it implements the modernization and route rationalization programs.
On Monday, July 27, Duterte is set to deliver his 5th SONA, where he is set to unveil his coronavirus recovery plan. – Rappler.com