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Keeping jeepneys off the streets will keep drivers jobless - Binay.

By Mario Casayuran

A government plan to phase out traditional jeepneys while the country is experiencing difficulties caused by the deadly coronavirus disease (COVID-19) comes at the wrong time.

Senator Maria Lourdes Nancy S. Binay, chairwoman of the Senate tourism committee, expressed this sentiment as the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) have yet to make a definitive position on when traditional jeepneys would be allowed to resume their routes after more than three months of lockdown.

Binay recalled that during a Senate public hearing last year, the DOTr stated that it would no longer allow jeepneys to ply the streets this year,

Interviewed by DWIZ radio, Binay expressed fears that keeping these traditional jeepneys off the streets would trigger joblessness from the ranks of jeepney drivers because they find as costly the modern jeepneys being offered as replacement for their units, some of which are already very old and decrepit.

UV Express units are scheduled to resume operations on Monday, while jeepneys may follow suit without any definite timetable.

While there are reports that government first wants to check the roadworthiness of the jeepneys, Binay said this alone would entail additional expenses to jeepney operators, yet without certainty that the DOTr or LTFRB would finally allow them to resume regular operations.

Despite the uncertainty, jeepney drivers or operators have reportedly installed plastic or carton dividers on their units in the hope that concerned government agencies would allow them to resume operations.

Meanwhile, Binay sees massive displacement of jeepney drivers once the DOTr implements its jeepney modernization program.

"Kung bibili ng bagong jeep di nga makapag-operate at full capacity ang sasakyan so paano pa nila maa-afford ang bagong jeep at di naman kaya ng pamahalaan na bigyan ng sustento every month ang mga drivers (If they buy new jeepneys but would not operate on full capacity, how could they afford them? Yet, the government is not capable of providing monthly financial assistance to drivers)" she said.

Currently, buses are now allowed to ply the streets but at less than 50 percent of their regular capacity. The rail systems are also running but at regulated capacities. The same holds true to UV Express.

"Ang nakakasama pa ng loob, imbes na diretsuhin ang mga tsuper kung makakabiyahe, dapat meron silang ginagawang paghahanda paano matutulungan ang mga drivers na di na nila pababalikin kasi ang sa tingin ko meron talagang di makakabalik (What hurts is that government cannot even tell when the drivers can resume operations. The government should be undertaking programs to help the drivers if they would no longer be allowed to go back to the streets. But the way I see it, the traditional jeepneys would no longer be allowed to ply the streets)," she added.

Some drivers have banded together to beg on the streets while waiting for government financial assistance.

Others have converted their jeepneys into ersatz houses for their families after they got evicted by their landlords for failure to pay rent.

"So paano natin mae-expect na magiging productive ang mga babalik sa trabaho kung sa commute pa lang pagod na sila (How do we expect our workers to be productive when they are already tired just by getting a ride to their workplace)," Binay asked.

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Senator Nancy Binay (FACEBOOK / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)
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Title Annotation:National; Maria Lourdes Nancy Binay
Author:Casayuran, Mario
Publication:Manila Bulletin
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:Jun 27, 2020
Words:556
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