Poe laments how jeepney drivers are last to get help during lockdowns
MANILA, Philippines — Senator Grace Poe on Wednesday lamented how jeepney drivers seemed to be the “last to get help” when they were the “first casualties” of the lockdowns enforced by the government to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Poe, chair of the Senate public services committee, urged the government to ramp up its efforts to help restore the livelihood of thousands of jeepney drivers who have remained off the road since quarantine measures were imposed five months ago.
“Jeepney drivers were among the first casualties of the lockdown, but appeared to be last to get help,” she said in a statement.
“We cannot just wait until the virus disappears while hunger stalks the drivers and their families. They have needs for food, rent and education of their children,” she added.
According to Poe, the national and local government could help jeepney organizations link up with private companies needing services for their delivery business so that the drivers could start earning again since quarantine rules can only accommodate a limited number of vehicles at a time.
She also said transport groups will be on the lookout for the commitment of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board to allow traditional jeepneys back on the road.
The 1,500 modern jeepneys with permit to travel but with reduced capacity in compliance with physical distancing measures do not satisfy the demand of the commuting public, Poe said.
There are around 170,000 jeepney units nationwide, 55,000 of which ply Metro Manila roads, she noted.
“It is indisputable that the modern jeepneys on the road do not meet the demand of the commuting workers who brave the travel to help get the economy back on its feet,” the senator pointed out.
She further reiterated that a modernization program of public utility vehicles (PUVs) “that would totally sideline traditional jeepneys or even a creeping phaseout is inhumane in this time of pandemic.”
Poe called on both the national and local government units to prioritize displaced PUVs in tapping vehicles for their needs to deliver or purchase supplies, transport employees and other mobility requirements.
Nevertheless, she reminded that PUVs should be COVID-19-free and that safety and health protocols should be observed while they are in use.
Poe conducted a consultation meeting with key representatives of transport federations in Quezon City “to hear their situation and find solutions to their lack of livelihood.”
The senator also handed out relief packs to ease the plight of the “badly hit sector.”
Citing a report from the Philippine Statistics Authority, Poe said land transportation contracted by 65.6 percent in the second quarter of 2020 or equivalent to a net loss of P72.28 billion compared to the same period last year.
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