New strategies urged to improve public transport
MANILA, Philippines — A coalition of 134 organizations on Monday said the government should hire the services of transport operators and drivers who are currently unemployed, after a shortage in mass transportation left thousands of workers stranded on the first day of operations of a wide range of businesses.
The Move as One Coalition wants the government to contract out transportation services of public utility vehicles (PUVs) nationwide, which it said would require an investment of P30 billion for six months.
This is part of an overall P110-billion stimulus package that the coalition proposed in May in order to avoid a public transportation crisis.
The package would also be spending for walking and bicycle infrastructure, as well as larger investments in dedicated bus lanes and stations in Metro Manila, Cebu and other busy cities.
Sen. Grace Poe endorsed the proposal to the Department of Transportation, as she called on government officials to make more PUVs available to the public while still protecting their safety.
Public transportation remains limited under the general community quarantine (GCQ) imposed in Metro Manila, Pangasinan, Region 2, Region 3, Region 4-A, Region 7, Zamboanga City and Davao City.
While more businesses were allowed to reopen and more people could go back to work, the number of vehicles allowed to transport passengers was low, with officials banning jeepneys and most buses because of concerns about enforcing physical distancing.
The lack of public transportation forced people to hitch rides on the backs of trucks, where they had to squeeze together in a limited space.
“The long lines of commuters in bus stations, workers walking to offices and people scampering to get on every available ride should not be part of the new normal under GCQ,” Poe said.
She said the government must make available more PUVs without compromising public health safety.
In a statement, Move as One reiterated its appeal for the government to immediately implement service contracting mechanisms to protect the country’s public transport workers.
It said “our transport workers should not have the burden to choose between their own livelihood and the lives and safety of their passengers. This is a burden that the government must address.”
Toix Cerna, convener of Komyut and member of the Move as One coalition, said the “situation this morning serves as an unfortunate wake-up call that the government must urgently address the ongoing transport crisis in the country. Public transport vehicles in Metro Manila are prevented from operating.”
“The current crisis highlights the need to do away with the current ‘boundary system’ and instead shift to service contracting,” said Ernie Cruz, president of the National Confederation of Transport Workers’ Union.
“By shifting to service contracting, the government pays the operators and drivers a per-kilometer fee to run the routes assigned to them, so the income of our transport workers is independent of the number of passengers they have,” Cruz said.
“This effectively guarantees the job security of our 2.7 million land transport workers, while also ensuring the safety of 8 million commuters in the NCR [National Capital Region] alone,” he added.
Another member of the coalition is Action for Economic Reforms.
—Roy Stephen C. Canivel and Leila B. Salaverria
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