Robredo wants Metro Manila's public transport modernization plan 'put on hold'

Aspiring president Vice President Leni Robredo said on Friday, Feb. 18, that the modernization of Metro Manila's public transport system should be put on hold.

Vice President Leni Robredo (VPLR Media Bureau)

Robredo argued that while the road to better public transportation in Metro Manila might be paved with good intentions, railroading it in the middle of the pandemic could only leave the commuters worse than it was before.

The Vice President said that forcing the consolidation of PUV operators, the use of common terminals, and the mandatory upgrading of fleets of jeepneys should be put on hold.

"Gusto po natin ang modernisasyon ng ating public transport. Ngunit ayaw naman po natin bigyan ng karagdagang burden ang ating mga pasahero at drivers. Hindi po natin dapat ipilit ang mga polisiyang hilaw at hindi angkop sa konteksto ng pandemya (We want to modernize our public transport. But we don't want to cause more burden to our passengers and drivers. We should not enforce underdeveloped policies (that are) inappropriate (in) the context of the pandemic)," Robredo said.

The focus, she said, must be on how to alleviate poverty, revive the economy, and control the further spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Policies that are not consistent to these objectives must be put on hold, she added.

The presidential aspirant explained that commuters are burdened by the use of integrated terminals because of health risks and higher fare.

She further said that passengers will have to resort to another mode of transportation to Metro Manila if the riding public is forced to use integrated terminals.

"Napipilitan ang mga pasahero na mag colorum van kasi mas convenient ito at mas mura. Ngunit dahil hindi regulated ang mag colorum van na ito, hindi natin ma-garantiya ang safety ng mga pasahero. Hindi rin po safe ngayong pandemic na pag halu-haluin ang mga pasaherong galing halimbawa sa iba’t ibang lugar sa isang terminal bago pumasok sa Metro Manila. Mas lalo itong makakadagdag sa mabilisang pagkalat ng COVID-19 (Passengers are forced to resort to colorum vans because it is more convenient and affordable. But because it is not regulated, their safety is also not guaranteed. It is also not safe amid the pandemic to let passengers from different areas to be in one terminal before entering Metro Manila),” Robredo further explained.

While common terminals are seen to provide efficient and convenient transfers, the current setup of these facilities only raised transport costs for commuters, Robredo said. Passengers heading towards destinations in North Luzon would have to pay more to get to San Fernando, Pampanga or Baguio, with additional fares ranging from 22 percent to 96 percent.

Robredo said while the pandemic persists, provincial buses should still be allowed to enter Metro Manila.

She stressed that like other industries that need support to recover, the public transportation sector also needs sufficient support.

Robredo also echoed the appeal of the public transport sector for the government to provide support to them by offering subsidies or extending credit lines, given the limitations in the carrying capacity of PUVs.