P17B public transport subsidy eyed; review on PUJ safety, need okayed by IATF

Published June 30, 2020, 6:20 PM

by Genalyn Kabiling

The government economic team has proposed a review of the restrictions on jeepney operations as well as an allocation of a P17-billion subsidy to support the public transportation sector affected by the coronavirus lockdown.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the economic cluster made the proposals on optimizing the use of safe and efficient public transportation in line with reopening of the economy, which were later approved in principle by the government task force on the coronavirus response.

The latest decision on the public transportation was reached during a meeting of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Infectious Diseases (IATF) last Monday.

“Mayroon pong mga specific proposals ang ating economic cluster kasama na po diyan iyong pag-isipan at pag-aralan talaga iyong scientific evidence kung talagang mas delikado ang paggamit ng PUJ (The economic cluster has specific proposals including the revisit and review of the scientific evidence if it is really more dangerous to use public utility jeepneys),” Roque said during a Palace press briefing.

He noted that the Department of Transportation previously declared that in the hierarchy in allowing different modes of public transportation, jeepneys are the last on the list. “Pero kung talagang kulang ay gagamitin ang jeepney. At kahapon sinabi ko na nga po, sa napakadaming lugar ng Pilipinas ay nagagamit naman po ang jeepney (But if there is shortage of transportation, jeepneys will be used. I said yesterday that there are many places in the Philippines that have already allowed the use of jeepneys),” Roque said.

The government earlier allowed the limited operations of public transportation in relaxed community quarantine areas but prohibited the jeepneys from operating due to the difficulty in enforcing the safe distancing rule inside these public utility vehicles.

Recently, the Palace announced that traditional jeepneys are allowed to operate in Bulacan, Cagayan de Oro, Pampanga, Siquijor, South Cotabato, Cordillera Administrative Region, Region I, Region IV, Region VIII, Region X, and Region XI.

Also, Roque said the economic team has recommended a P17- billion program to support the public transportation sector affected by the coronavirus lockdown. The subsidy will be part of the proposed Bayanihan II law being ironed out by lawmakers and the economic managers.

According to Roque, the amount can be used largely for the service contracting of PUVs to incentivize the resumption of operations in accordance with reduced capacity and sanitation standards.

“Iniisip din po ng economic team na magbigay ng subsidiya, hindi po malaking subsidiya, iyong enough lamang para naman makabawi iyong mga public transportation na hindi po nakakapagbiyahe ng 100% capacity (The economic team is considering the provision of subsidy, not necessarily huge, but just enough to help the public transportation recover after not being allowed to operate at 100 percent capacity),” he said.

Roque said the subsidy can be set at the breakeven point plus 10 percent markup less the average daily revenue. Full subsidy is not affordable and can result in moral hazards, entitlements, and overcrowding.

Other recommendations on public transport made by the government economic cluster are:

  • increase turnover of PUVs through dedicated lanes to compensate for lower vehicle capacity;
  • accelerate the automated fare collection system to reduce virus transmission through cash payments;
  • support active transport modes (i.e. walking and cycling) to help address shortages at the last mile (e.g. tricycles) and reduce pressure on the public transport system; and,
  • if needed, consider out of the box solutions, such as temporarily allowing certain PUVs to travel on routes outside their franchise.