From ‘kings of the road’ to beggars: Transport leader makes case for full return of passenger jeepneys

Published March 29, 2021, 6:06 PM

by Alexandria Dennise San Juan

The government should allow more public utility vehicles (PUVs) on roads during the pandemic to avoid overcrowding of passengers and prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in public transportation, a transport group leader said.

“Dapat ay mas magbukas pa ng public transport para hindi nagsisiksikan ang mga pasahero. Dapat ibinibukas ang public transport para matulungan ang pag-angat ng ating ekonomiya (More forms of public transportation should reopen to avoid overcrowding and to help the economy),” Mody Floranda, national president of Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide (PISTON) said in an interview on Monday, March 29.

Floranda said his group is pushing for the 100 percent restoration of PUV operations, particularly of the traditional public utility jeepneys (PUJs), in order to ferry more commuters amid the implementation of reduced passenger capacity during the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).

Apart from servicing the riding public and helping resuscitate the economy, Moranda said allowing PUJs to resume full operations will also help drivers and operators to make ends meet more than after the first salvo of ECQ stripped them of their livelihood.

“Mula noong naglockdown noong March 2020, kung titingnan natin ang kalagayan ng mga driver at operator sa ngayon, marami pa rin sa kanila ang namamalimos at humihingi ng tulong (A lot of drivers and operators are still begging on the streets after the lockdown was implemented in March 2020),” Floranda said.

“Naka-isang taon na na ganito ang kalagayan natin ngunit minimal pa rin ang mga driver at operator ang nakakatanggap ng tulong mula sa national — hindi lang sa Metro Manila kundi sa buong bansa (A year has already passed and yet only a few drivers and operators have received aid from the national government — not only in Metro Manila but across the country),” he added.

Before the pandemic struck, the PUJs–one of the more recognizable Philippine icons–were considered the de facto “kings” of the road given their importance and ubiquitousness.

The PISTON leader also lamented the implementation of the 50 percent operating capacity and “one-seat apart policy” in PUVs during the ECQ in the National Capital Region (NCR) and the nearby provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal, or “NCR-plus”.

“Hindi na talaga sasapat ang kikitain ng mga driver at operator lalo na ngayon na tumataas pa ang presyo ng petrolyo kahit na may pandemya. Ano pa ang kiktain ng mga driver? (Drivers and operators simply won’t be able to earn enough especially since fuel prices increased despite the pandemic. What would be left for the drivers to earn?)” he asked.

When travel restrictions were first lifted in June 2020, traditional jeepneys were the last to resume operations among mass transport options due to their “limited capacity and lack of contactless payment features required for the new normal.”