The proposed "Bayanihan to Recover as One Act" assures that there will be no phaseout of traditional jeepneys during the COVID-19 pandemic, Senator Grace Poe said on Thursday.
Poe gave the assurance after the bicameral conference committee approved the final version of the so-called Bayanihan 2, which the Senate is set to ratify later.
"Marami sa ating mga kababayan ang walang hanapbuhay at kailangan natin ng transportasyon. Bago pa nga itong pandemyang ito ay kulang na ‘yong masasakyan ng ating mga kababayan, so ang aming panukala ay wala munang phaseout ng mga traditional jeep natin basta lamang ang importante ang mga ito ay roadworthy—ibig sabihin ligtas, tapos hindi naman smoke-belcher ang mga jeep na ‘yon," said Poe, the chairperson of the Senate public services committee and also a member of the Senate contingent in the bicam panel.
(Many of our fellow Filipinos lost their livelihood and we need transportation. Even before the pandemic, our public transportation was already not enough for our commuters, that's why our proposal was not to implement the phaseout of traditional jeepneys as long as they are road-worthy -- meaning, they are safe and not smoke-belching.)
Poe, who filed a bill for "just and humane PUV modernization program", noted the position of groups who say that traditional jeepneys, which have no air-conditioners, may be safer for public transportation amid the virus outbreak.
"There are others who are saying that it’s safer to ride a jeep kasi (because they are) open air as opposed sa mga iba na contained talaga ‘yong recycled air ang hinihinga nila (to others that are contained, that passengers breathe in recycled air),” she said in her statement.
Poe likewise assured that public utility vehicle (PUV) drivers who have been displaced by the travel restrictions amid the COVID-19 pandemic are set to receive forms of assistance under the Bayanihan 2 bill.
“We agreed to provide the much-needed support to displaced workers in the transport sector," she said.
She said a P5.58-billion funding was set aside to provide temporary livelihood to displaced workers in the transport industry through service contracting of PUVs, regardless of quarantine levels. Of the amount, P3 billion has been set aside for jeepney drivers and P2.58 billion for other PUV drivers.
The Bayanihan bill has also allocated P17.97 billion to the Land Bank of the Philippines and P5.5 billion to the Development Bank of the Philippines that the transport sector may tap as loan facilities through the Department of Transportation.
Meanwhile, a separate P1.31 billion will be used to develop accessible sidewalks and protected bicycle lanes, procure bicycles and safety-related equipment for bicycle distribution, sharing and lending program.
Poe has been pushing for additional government assistance for PUV drivers and operators who have resorted to begging.
She estimated that of the 400,000 beneficiaries from the PUV drivers, only around 10 percent have received aid from the government.
"That’s why you see a lot of them begging in the streets; maraming namamalimos kasi nga hindi nakakarating ang tulong sa kanila (many of them are begging because help has not been extended to them),” she said.