LTFRB chairman Delgra urged: Act now on transport situation

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
LTFRB chairman Delgra urged: Act now on transport situation
Jeepney drivers in Caloocan City who are not yet allowed to operate ask for alms amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which has left millions of Filipinos jobless due to to the government's measures against the virus.
The STAR / Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board was urged to cut down on delays in payments owed to jeepney drivers and operators and to add more public utility vehicles in an already-precarious public transport situation amid the second enhanced community quarantine. 

In a statement issued Tuesday night, the Move as One transport coalition called attention to delayed payments under the government's service contracting program, which the group said has "eroded trust" in the program. 

"The service contracting program is designed to improve the reliability, service quality, and long-term financial viability of public transport services. Therefore, the program’s implementation should be LTFRB’s highest priority. However, the credibility of the program has been marred by much-delayed payments to participating drivers and operators," the group said. 

"LTFRB needs to immediately work around the clock to clear the backlog in payments. Thereafter, payments under service contracts need to be released promptly and efficiently. Otherwise, transport workers will continue to lose trust in the service contracting program."

Since the return to ECQ within the so-called NCR+ bubble, it's been the same situation for Filipino commuters. Countless essential workers are again forced to endure long lines and needlessly worry how to get to and from work. At the same time, they are exposed to coronavirus transmission in crowded conditions.

Based on the LTFRB's own issuances, the group said, some 16,875 or 25% of the public utility jeepneys, buses and UV express units available before the pandemic have yet to be authorized, while 23% of routes are still prohibited for drivers to ply on.

Transport group Piston has also said that an overwhelming majority of jeepney drivers still remain jobless over a year later. Worse, they have not received aid either in a pandemic that requires them to stay at home. 

READ: In ECQ 'bubble', checkpoints for commuter safety harm hard-up drivers

"After more than a year, many traditional jeepneys, which should be preferred for their open-air ventilation, are still not allowed to operate. This has tipped many transport workers into extreme poverty," the coalition said. 

"LTFRB should work with local government units and organized transport groups to assign additional PUV units to routes where public transport is most deficient. The agency should assist operators in making services more reliable and in implementing health protocols."

Jeepney drivers and transport collective have also said that the fear of overzealous enforcers manning checkpoints and amid the ECQ were enough to keep them at home. 

"These enforcers are getting too aggressive, but it's scary for us to speak out against the government. We're just ordinary people," one worker at a transport cooperative told Philstar.com in a phone call. 



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