This photo taken on May 11, 2020 shows a driver installing seat dividers in his passenger jeepney to comply with government-imposed social distancing rules against the COVID-19 coronavirus in Manila.
AFP/Ted Aljibe
House committee on Metro Manila Development calls for resumption of traditional PUJs
Franco Luna (Philstar.com) - July 1, 2020 - 12:41pm

MANILA, Philippines — The House committee on Metro Manila Development expressed support for allowing traditional jeepneys, among the more popular alternatives for Filipino commuters, to ply their routes again amid the pronounced lack of mass transportation options. 

In a statement issued Wednesday, Rep. Manny Lopez (Manila 1st District), who chairs the committee in Congress, said: “We may also have to be flexible in our plans. Modern jeepneys, though maybe due, is simply insufficient to service specially or secondary and tertiary feeder roads."

Officials have been faithful to the same script over the past two months: that traditional jeepneys have always been part of its hierarchy and plans moving forward, but that they would be subject to health and roadworthiness standards while modes with higher capacities would be prioritized.

READ: Nearly a month into GCQ, gov't uncertain on jeepney's fate

All the while, drivers and operators of traditional public utility jeepneys had to shoulder most of the weight. During the pandemic, they don't work and they don't earn. No clear plans for traditional PUJs have been given despite promises that they would soon be allowed to operate again by Monday. 

"It is not unusual to hear of stories of people walking for kilometers and taking 5 or 6 hours getting to work and another 5 to 6 hours going home. This is unacceptable and we must get our acts together. Let us get our traditional jeepneys back on the roads with guidelines that make them safe for use adhering to the health guidelines for this pandemic," Lopez said. 

As of the first day of July, only a handful of areas have seen traditional PUJs back on the road, while interim operations of the EDSA Busway are slated to begin on Wednesday. That same morning, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board told reporters that "guidelines" for traditional PUJs are expected within the week. They issued the same statement last week but turned out to be referring to UV Express guidelines only. 

“In the early phase of this project where the route is incomplete, bus stops and elevated pedestrian walkways are unfinished, we totally understand the frustration of our countrymen. As this new bus lane becomes fully operational, we expect to see an improvement in the traffic situation in EDSA, but more importantly a reduction in total travel time of our bus riding commuters," he added. 

According to a 2015 technical report by the Japan International Cooperation Agency, 88% of households in Metro Manila do not own cars and depend almost solely on public transportation, while the remaining 12% own at least one.

At an earlier webinar, Rep. Ron Salo (Kabayan Party-list) said: "Inefficiency in public transport became more glaring as general community quarantine was implemented [and] 2 million workers are currently without transportation going to work, or P1 billion in economic losses a day...PUJs must resume operations at the earliest possible time."

READ: Calls mount to let jeepneys, UV Express back on the road

Ernesto Cruz, president of the National Confederation of Transportworkers Union, said at the same webinar that it was clear that over 50,000 traditional jeepneys in Metro Manila are slowly being phased out despite hollow claims that they are under the transportation department's hierarchy.

"If we intend to get the national economy on track, it is first imperative that we get the economy of Metro Manila going and a big part of this is getting our workers to work and safely bringing them home to their families in a reasonable amount of time. This is a very complicated issue because faced with this COVID crisis, government’s primary responsibility is the health and safety of our countrymen,” Lopez said. 

DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION NOVEL CORONAVIRUS
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