By JOHN CARLO M. CAHINHINAN
Senator Grace Poe has urged the country’s transportation officials to finally allow traditional jeepneys that have passed the roadworthiness to ply their routes again to augment the transportation needs of commuters in Metro Manila as it expected to transition to a more relaxed quarantine policy.
Poe, chair of the Senate Committee on Public Services, said commuters experience daily distress in getting to their destination because of the apparent lack of public utility vehicles on the road and the fewer capacity they can accommodate as part of social distancing.
“Noon ko pa sinasabi na hangga’t roadworthy dapat payagan ang pamamasada na ‘yan. Kung kakarag-karag na, smoke belcher, hindi na ligtas ay huwag talaga payagan ‘yan,” said Poe.
“Sinasabi nila (LTFRB) na maglalabas sila ng 1,500 modern jeepney next week. Ang talagang kabuuang numero ng mga jeep sa Metro Manila lamang ay 60,000. Papaano nila masasabi na ‘pag-aaralan natin kung ano ang kulang,’ talagang kulang pa rin kung magkakaroon tayo ng moderate GCQ. Kung dati kulang na, kung babawasan pa, mas lalong magkukulang,” she added.
Poe stressed that public utility jeeps (PUJs) that will be back on the road should also be compliant with safety and health protocols to limit the risk of the COVID-19 transmission, Poe stressed.
She added that the Land Transportation Office (LTO) should conduct a thorough and honest examination of PUJs to determine if they are compliant with safety standards, the senator said.
Poe said she is not against the jeepney modernization program, but it should not brush aside legitimate concerns aired by the drivers, who have been without income for over three months now due to the quarantine.
“Hindi makataong ipilit ang modernisasyon lalo na kung marami sa ating mga jeepney driver ang kumakalam ang sikmura dahil hindi nakakapasada,” she said.
Last year, Poe filed Senate Bill No. 867 seeking a “just and humane public utility vehicle modernization program” to balance the need for safer, more environmentally-sound public transport with the rights of those whose livelihood depends on it.
SB 867 provides for loan subsidy to PUJ drivers, interest rate on loan amortization not exceeding four percent which will be payable in 15 years.
The bill also states that drivers who can no longer take part in the program shall be given a reasonable amount of financial assistance to enable them to venture into other livelihood.
“Marami ngang nagsasabi wrong timing ngayon sapagkat kailangan nga magbigay ng ayuda ang gobyerno dahil wala ngang trabaho ang mga tao, tapos ngayon natin ipe-phaseout lahat nitong mga jeepney na luma. Dapat magkaroon ng magandang pag-uusap at pagkakasundo,” she stressed.