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How idle drivers in provinces cope with pandemic

/ 04:10 AM June 26, 2020

As officials contemplate whether to eventually allow jeepneys to return for good, the experience of several transport groups in the Visayas and Mindanao that have adjusted to the “new normal” may provide tips for Metro Manila.

In cities like Danao and Cebu, drivers and operators said they benefited from their experiment with service contracting, in which the government or private companies hire and pay operators by the kilometer or day.

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Drivers and operators, who spoke in an online transport forum hosted by MoveAsOne coalition, cited the benefits of such a model, which has improved their public transport systems there.

Transport economists said service contracting would answer the need for safe, sufficient and stable public transportation. Under this scheme, drivers and operators are paid fixed income, independent of the number of passengers they carry.

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Stable income

“With this system, they will have a stable source of income without being forced to work for unreasonably long hours,” urban planner Robert Siy said. “Commuters will be guaranteed stable and reliable service, with safer travels without on-street competition.”

He said such a scheme would allow the government to have “full command over the vehicle fleet, and the flexibility to move vehicles where there is the greatest need.”

Before the new coronavirus disease pandemic, these cities, like the rest of the country, operated under a boundary system where drivers were often forced to work beyond 12-hour shifts to earn enough for their boundary fees and take-home pay.

When the pandemic struck, the municipal government of Pavia in Iloilo province enlisted operators, instead of encouraging private companies, to provide shuttle services for their employees, said Monica Acha, vice chair of Province of Iloilo Transport Service Cooperative.

Cebu experience

In Cebu, private companies did service contracting, said Angie Mata, manager of Mandaue Sabang Danao Transport Service Cooperative.

“Passengers did not pay for their own fares anymore, and the companies paid the fares depending on how many trips the drivers are able to serve,” Mata said.

In Bulacan, 526 buses and 510 jeepneys were allowed to ply their routes in the province, according to the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) in Central Luzon.

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At least 47 units of point-to-point buses also began plying five routes—from the City of Malolos, Sta. Maria, Bocaue, Balagtas, Pandi and Plaridel to North Edsa.

In Bataan, 2,000 jeepney and minibus drivers are waiting for the decision of the LTFRB to allow jeepneys to ply their routes next week.

In Baguio City, the council recently enforced an ordinance allowing the installation of tip boxes on public utility vehicles, except for taxis.

In Bicol, Albay Rep. Joey Salceda said provincial buses should also be allowed to resume operations, but health protocols and safety standards must be observed at all times.

Ramon Rescovilla, deputy secretary general and spokesperson for the transport group Condor-Piston Bicol, said their group had asked the LTFRB to increase by 30 percent the number of jeepneys that would be allowed to operate in the region.

He said 9,000 jeepneys were operating in Bicol, with Albay and Camarines Sur province having the biggest share at 4,000 units each. —WITH REPORTS FROM CARMELA REYES-ESTROPE, GREG REFRACCION, MICHAEL JAUCIAN AND MAR ARGUELLES

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