Cebu City prepares for gradual return of jeepneys

The Cebu City Government created a task force Tuesday, September 29, to study steps it would take leading to the return of the traditional jeepneys here.

Jeepneys and other forms of public transportation were pulled out of the streets when the national government imposed a lockdown in key areas of the country in March to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

In a virtual presser Mayor Edgardo Labella said he signed Tuesday Executive Order No. 093, establishing a task force to study the prospect of allowing the reoperation of public utility jeepneys (PUJ) when quarantine restrictions are lifted.

Among the task force’s responsibilities were to assess the feasibility of allowing the reoperation of PUJs, as well as, to draft guidelines and procedures, and safety protocols for passengers and drivers .

The task force is headed by Cebu City councilor James Anthony Cuenco.

The members are Traffic Office head Alma Casimero, Land Transportation Office (LTO)- Central Visayas director Victor Caindec, Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB)- Central Visayas director Eduardo Montealto Jr, councilors Renato Osmeña Jr and Niña Mabatid, legal officer Rey Gealon, and Anne Marie Cuizon of the Planning and Development Office.

Labella clarified that any decision endorsed by the task force would still be subject to approval by LTO and LTFRB.

"Bisan og naflatten na ang curve, hinay-hinayon nato og pabalik ang atong mga jeepneys (Even though the curve has been flattened, the return of our jeepneys has to be gradual). With certain guidelines and of course, with the approval of LTFRB and LTO," he told Cebu media.

With Cebu City currently under the least restrictive modified general community quarantine, taxis and ride-hailing companies have become the main mode of public transport.

Greg Perez, the spokesperson for Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide- Cebu, said this move by the city government is a welcome development. He added that his fellow drivers had been calling for the return of PUJs for months.

"Truthfully, we’ve long awaited this move from the local government unit to allow our PUJ drivers, who are currently starving and have nothing to eat, to reoperate," he told Rappler in Cebuano.

According to him, some of the displaced drivers have decided to return to their provinces while some have opted to work for construction companies or drive taxis.

On September 28, Cebu City recorded 3 new cases of COVID-1 – the lowest number of single-day new cases recorded by the city. As of Monday, Cebu City has reached a total of 9,978 cases. Of this, 392 are active cases. The city's number of recoveries rose to 8,913 while its number of COVID-related deaths remained at 673. – Rappler.com