WITH THOUSANDS of commuters still bearing the brunt of lack of transport options, Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan on Tuesday urged the government to immediately allow jeepney and UV Express drivers get back on the road.
“Araw-araw na kalbaryo ang nangyayari. Kapag pinayagan nang bumalik sa kalye ang jeepney at UV express, dalawang problema ang agad masosolusyonan: sasakyan para sa commuters at trabaho para sa jeepney at UV Express drivers,” he said.
Pangilinan explained that unlike jeepneys and UV Express, the allowed P2P buses can only serve on major highways, forcing commuters to walk for kilometers from their homes to bus stops.
“Napipilitan tuloy ang mga commuters, na pagod na sa trabaho, na magkalad ng kilo-kilometro papasok sa trabaho at pauwi sa bahay,” he said.
Despite the urgent need, Pangilinan said he wonders why government appears to be discriminating against traditional jeepneys and UV express in its choice for public utility vehicles (PUVs) to deploy around Metro Manila.
He said that insisting on modernization in this time of pandemic is “insensitive and ill-timed.”
Transport groups like the Coalition of Operators and Drivers of UV Express Atbp. (Codex) and Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operators Nationwide (PISTON) earlier appealed to government to allow them to operate as their vehicles are ready to serve the public, complying with physical distancing measures.
“Pwede naman maipatupad ang mga health and safety protocols gaya ng physical distancing at regular disinfection sa mga tradisyunal na jeepney at UV Express. Naniniwala tayo na pagtutulungan ding ipatupad ng mga commuter itong mga protocol dahil walang may gusto na mahawaan ng virus,” Pangilinan said.
However, Malacañang said that the return of jeepneys in the streets is still being studied, citing claims that physical distancing would be difficult to observe because of the seating in jeepneys.
“Mahigit tatlong buwan nang umaasa sa ayuda at panghihiram sa mga kaibigan at kamag-anak ang mga PUV drivers at ng pamilya nila; ang ilan nga ay napilitang mamalimos sa mga lansangan,” Pangilinan said.
“Nakakatiyak tayo na handang maging bahagi muli ng work force ang mga PUV driver at tumulong na pasiglahin ang productivity para bumilis ang pag-unlad ng ekonomiya at maalis na sa gobyerno ang paggastos nang malaki para sa social amelioration,” he added.
Mass transportation has been suspended for more than two months since Luzon and other parts of the country were placed under enhanced community quarantine in mid-March to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Since June 1, Metro Manila has been under General Community Quarantine (GCQ), which allowed modern jeepneys and buses to resume operations.
But while the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) gave assurance that UV Express and traditional jeepneys would be allowed to operate within the month, the transport department and the LTFRB announced that UV Express vans were not yet allowed to roam the streets as operational guidelines were still being prepared.
“Kailangan na nilang makabalik-pasada at dapat payagan na sila ng gobyerno,” Pangilinan urged.