Transport sector workers seek subsidies to address reduced capacity under GCQ

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
Transport sector workers seek subsidies to address reduced capacity under GCQ
Trains, taxis, transport network vehicle service, shuttle services and point-to-point buses will be allowed to operate with limited passenger capacity starting tomorrow. Jeepneys are still not allowed to ferry commuters.
The STAR / Edd Gumban, file

MANILA, Philippines — A coalition of transport sector workers and advocates on Saturday expressed concern over the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging and Infectious Diseases' decision to limit the number of buses and jeepneys available when  Metro Manila shifts to the more relaxed general community quarantine on Monday. 

Both the transportation department and the IATF-EID have said they will impose a reduced vehicle supply and reduced passenger loads. 

Jeepneys will still not be allowed to ferry commuters once general community quarantine is hoisted on Monday. 

LIFE AFTER LOCKDOWN: Limited operations for land transport as more Filipinos hit the road

In a statement issued Saturday night, the Move as One Coalition highlighted that the massive dropo in the seating capacity of public utility vehicles caused by physical distancing measures would leave transport workers vulnerable to substantial losses and even joblessness with public transport operators potentially shutting down because of unprofitable operations. 

This comes after Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade at the president’s public address on Thursday night urged commuters not to “expect 100% operations,” saying: "While the mandate of the DOTr is to provide transportation, mobility and convenience, it is now also vested with the responsibility to help in preventing the spread of the coronavirus."

"Don't expect that train operation will be 100%. We have to balance our mandate to curb the spread of the virus. Therefore, the capacity will also be limited, gradual, and calculated," he added. 

Service contracting 

The coalition in its statement reiterated its proposal of service contracting for public transportation where the government pays the operators and drivers a per kilometer fee to run the routes, which the group said would "ensure a just transition for transport industry workers."

“This policy will protect the families of millions of transport workers who are now at the brink of starvation, especially those who did not receive the promised aid. Many of them are begging on the road just for food,” Ernie Cruz, president of the National Confederation of Transport Workers Union (NCTU), in a mix of English and Filipino. 

For his part, Miles Reyes, vice president of the Pagkakaisa ng Manggagawa sa Transportasyon said: “Serving the public under those conditions, with reduced incomes and increased risks of infection, may be too much to ask of the transport sector. Many of them may opt not to run or may not earn enough income to survive."

The coalition in the past few weeks has long been lobbying for transportation subsidies as part of a P110-billion transportation bailout that includes government spending on “active transport infrastructures,” including “wider sidewalks, dedicated bike lanes, urban tree shades and safe walkable streets" among others. 

Move as One added that such a system would alleviate the pitfalls of the current “boundary system” where the income of operators and drivers, who were generally forced to be self-sufficient pre-coronavirus, depends solely on the number of passengers they have.

'Workers need to get to their jobs'

In a separate statement the Transportation Science Society of the Philippines tagged the idea as a "process that is bound to be controversial, whilst needing the mobilization of a performance audit and monitoring unit in a government agency." 

"This model will need more data and institutional capacity not available in the transition," they added. 

But according to the coalition, the financial burden falls on the transport sector and "forces operators and drivers to absorb losses" if the boundary system is still in place under the coming GCQ.

Citing a figure from the Japan International Cooperation Agency, Move as One said that the investment would protect the jobs of the 88 percent of households who do not have cars and commute to work.

“Workers need to get to their jobs. Employers need their workers. The economy will suffer another blow if businesses can’t restart because their workers can’t get to the office, or the factory or if their workers get sick,” Move as One said. 

“Public transportation must remain an essential public service centered on advancing the welfare of commuters while ensuring the safety and livelihood security of our transport workers, laborers, and cooperatives. This should be our priority in the transition towards a more inclusive public transportation system,” they said. 

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