Quimbo tells DOTr: Transport inflation can be solved by allowing jeepney operations
MANILA, Philippines — Marikina 2nd District Rep. Stella Quimbo has insisted that allowing traditional jeepneys to operate again would help solve the high inflation rates within the transportation sector.
During the deliberations on the proposed Department of Transportation (DOTr) budget at the House of Representatives plenary late Wednesday night, Quimbo explained that commuters have to spend more nowadays due to the shortage of transportation modes amid limited operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
She pointed out that commuters spending more leads to a higher inflation rate in the transportation industry, which according to the Philippine Statistics Authority was at 8.3 percent — despite overall inflation numbers in September slightly going down to 2.3 percent, compared to August’s 2.4 percent.
“An 8.3 percent increase, Mr. Speaker, the inflation rate is too high because the Central Bank of the Philippines targets only 3 percent every year. So if it reaches 8.3 percent for the transportations sector, that’s a big problem,” Quimbo, an economics professor by profession, said in Filipino.
“So what is the reason why fares are high? It’s simple, because we lack available public transportation modes, there is a shortage, and if there is a shortage, it means our workers are stranded,” she added.
According to Quimbo, the recourse for a lot of workers nowadays is to use other more expensive transportation modes like taxis, transport network vehicle services, and even tricycles — due to the absence of jeepneys which is generally the cheapest way to commute.
“In Marikina, due to shortage of jeepneys, people are forced to ride tricycles and of course we know that if you ride a tricycle, its fares would be special. So what used to be a twenty-peso commute to the market is now at P150,” Quimbo explained.
But Nueva Ecija 2nd District Rep. Micaela Violago, who sponsored the DOTr budget, answered that there is no increase in transport fares amid the pandemic. Quimbo quickly explained that she was pertaining to higher expenses for commuters’ fares, and not actual fares themselves.
“I also want to remind that we did not raise our fares, unlike what you were saying a while ago, there is no fare hike right now,” Violago said after speaking with a DOTr official.
“That is correct, but I never said that fares increased. What I am talking about is the overall expenses of commuters,” Quimbo retorted. “That’s the reason for the high inflation rates within the transport sector.”
“Even if jeepney fares stay the same but you have a jeepney shortage, people would be forced to ride tricycles which have special fares, so you pay five times higher than the usual,” Quimbo added. “It’s very disappointing that you’re even pointing out that the fares are the same. Of course we know that.”
During the transition of Metro Manila and other neighboring provinces to lighter quarantine status last June, traditional jeepneys were left out of public transportation modes allowed to operate. This was because government officials believed that jeepney’s sitting arrangement would contribute to possible coronavirus transmissions.
But think tank Ibon Foundation stressed that traditional jeepneys may actually be safer than their modern counterparts, as the lack of air conditioning system meant that air could move more freely, contrary to buses and modern jeepneys where air circulates around the vehicle — giving way for more possible transmissions.
Quimbo said she could not imagine why DOTr relents on allowing all jeepneys to operate again, especially since all public transportation modes including the train systems have cut down capacity to promote physical distancing.
“What is the reason why we are preventing the remaining number of jeepneys to operate again? We know that public transports’ capacity were reduced by 50 percent. Yet instead of allowing all to operate, and support them if they cannot comply with minimum health standards, we chose to prevent them,” she asked.
Violago answered by saying that 28,000 jeepneys are now operating again, and that public transportation is sufficient, because there are 845 modern jeepneys on the road, along with 4,093 city buses, 387 point-to-point buses, 286 provincial buses, 3,300 UV Express vehicles, and 20,927 taxis, and 24,356 TNVS vehicles.
But Quimbo remained unsatisfied, because despite the gradual increase of public vehicles, a lot of vehicles are still not allowed to operate, causing a double bane of drivers not having any job and commuters settling for more expensive options.
“It’s good news that it increased slightly, but again it begs the question: for example with UV Express, the total is at 6,000 (vehicles), but you are saying we operate 3,300 only. So again, you have a 50 percent reduction in capacity because of the social distancing, but you do not allow 100 percent of the units to operate,” Quimbo stressed.
“Sufficient? We said a while ago that 75 percent of the jeeps are running now at 50 percent capacity. I cannot fathom how you were able to conclude that the number of public transports operating is sufficient,” she noted.
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