Jeepney drivers on June 1, 2020 hold up slogans calling to be allowed back on the streets during the general community quarantine.
AFP/Maria Tan
Palace: Hiring jeepney drivers as contact tracers an option
Alexis Romero ( - June 3, 2020 - 3:58pm

MANILA, Philippines — Officials are discussing the possibility of tapping jeepney drivers as contact tracers while they are not yet allowed to resume operations because of quarantine restrictions, Malacañang said Wednesday.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said allowing jeepneys on the roads is "not in the immediate horizon" because it is "almost a physical impossibility" to observe social distancing when passengers face each other.

"Well, (we are) actually considering alternative livelihood for them. There's a suggestion that they be employed as contact tracers, because we do need about a 120,000 them and there’s only about 30,000 employed so far," Roque told ABS-CBN News Channel.  

"That's being discussed," he added.

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Roque said the government is also considering the complete reconfiguration of the jeepney to make it compliant with minimum health standards.

Jeepneys are still not allowed even if the government has relaxed quarantine measures nationwide. The restriction has forced drivers to rely on government dole-outs, some of them even going to the streets to beg to support their families.

The government is planning to spend P11.7 billion to hire 136,000 contact tracers for at least three months. Contact tracing seeks to identify the people who had close contact with persons infected with the coronavirus so they can be isolated.

Limited mass transportation for foreseeable future

Roque said the government is urging employers to adopt alternative working arrangements like work-from-home because of the limited mass transportation.

"Unfortunately, public transportation really will have to be reduced if there’s going to be social distancing...The only way to contain a disease now is observe social distancing and we will never get to the point that we can provide 100% transportation to what we used to have in a workplace," the Palace spokesman said.

"Although we have opened the economy and the workforce can come back 100%, it does not mean that we should let them into the work premises 100% because we simply don't have the capacity yet to provide public transportation if all of our workers are to be compelled to work [on-site]," he added.

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