A transport group is hoping that the national government will open more routes for public utility jeepney (PUJs) in Metro Manila in order to make it more convenient for both teachers and students to travel especially when full face-to-face classes resume in November.
Currently, more or less 55,000 PUJs were allowed to take more than 500 routes in the National Capital Region (NCR), according to Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (PISTON) National President Mody Floranda, and he attributed this to the reopening of routes previously suspended due to the Covid-19 lockdowns.
“We are hoping that the government, through the LTFRB ( Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board) will open more routes because there are still almost 20,000 PUJs which are yet to resume their operation,” Floranda told the Manila Bulletin in an interview.
Once this is granted, Floranda said the transportation in Metro Manila will go back to normal which means that it would be easier for commuters to travel.
He explained that based on the current situation, it takes two to three rides before some of the commuters reach their destination as some of the routes remain closed.
“This means additional expenses to the commuters and this is certainly conducive to the resumption of face-to-face classes,” said Floranda.
The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) has announced the resumption of the pre-pandemic number coding scheme starting Aug. 15. But violators will only be warned until Aug. 17.
Public utility vehicles, however, are exempted from the resumption of the number coding.
Floranda said they expect the LTFRB to honor its commitment to open more routes during their July 12 meeting.
“During our meeting, we were told that the LTFRB will prioritize the routes which would pass by schools in Metro Manila,” he said.
Thousands of PUJ drivers and operators were rendered incomeless during the pandemic lockdowns. While the lockdown measures began to ease last year, a number of PUJ drivers and operators were forced to stop hitting the road due to the series of big-time increases in the prices of petroleum products since the last quarter of 2021.
Floranda said that while the prices of petroleum products decreased by at least P20 in the past weeks, the reduction is not enough to cover the daily living expenses of the drivers due to inflation.
“While there was a temporary relief among the PUJ drivers and operators because of the rollbacks, this is not enough because the prices of basic commodities remain high,” said Floranda.
“So our position is that the government should suspend the taxes being imposed on fuel products because based on our estimates, this will lead to further rollback of prices by P16 per liter. Once this happens, this will benefit not only the transport sector but the public in general because it will lead to reduction in the prices of basic products,” said Floranda.
Floranda explained that while it is the right of the drivers and operators for fare hike, the position of PISTON is that there should be a balance between the reality on the ground wherein ordinary people are having difficulties adjusting to the effects of inflation.
This is the reason, according to him, while they are calling for the suspension of the taxes on petroleum products.