Hontiveros pushes anew for return of public transpo via service contracting

Senator Risa Hontiveros has called on the government anew to adopt service contracting with the public transportation sector, so that more buses, jeepneys and other mass transport  can soon serve commuters struggling daily in Metro Manila and other areas under general community quarantine (GCQ).

“Patuloy ang pahirapang biyahe para sa ating mananakay, habang wala pa ring kita ang madaming driver. Hindi dapat yan ang ‘new normal.’ Government should engage the public transport sector via service contracting to enable the speedy and safe return of jeeps and buses to our streets,” Hontiveros said.

The senator reiterated her proposal after news reports continue to show commuters forced to endure long walks and lines due to the limited availability of public transportation in Metro Manila and nearby provinces, along with drivers of traditional jeepneys forced to beg in the streets due to months of lost income.

“Lagpas isang buwan na matapos ang simula ng GCQ, hanggang ngayon hindi pa rin makabalik sa biyahe ang maraming jeepney driver. Hindi malinaw at magkakasalungat ang mga anunsyo ng Department of Transportation (DOTr) sa resumption ng traditional jeepney at bus routes,” Hontiveros said. “Nasaan na ‘yung sinasabing plano at aksyon ng pamahalaan para maibsan ang hirap ng mga driver at commuter?”

She said that government should enter into service contracts with operators and drivers of buses, jeeps and other public transportation to ensure that more mass transport options will soon become available, and that these will be more compliant to health and safety measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.  

Under a service contract scheme, Hontiveros noted, government will pay operators and drivers a per kilometer fee to ply their routes in lieu of the traditional mode of collecting payments from passengers. This arrangement, she said, ensures steady income for drivers and operators and allows government to strictly enforce health measures, such as wearing of masks and social distancing in public transport vehicles.

“Subok na ang service contracting. In fact, it has been used by some local government units to great effect during and after the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ). At kung safety measures ang pag-uusapan, matagal na ring sinabi ng mga drivers and operators na handa silang sumunod sa kahit anong health guideline ang ipapatupad ng pamahalaan, basta ito ay malinaw at hindi pabago-bago,” Hontiveros said.    

According to Hontiveros, government should immediately implement service contracting or other means to rapidly expand the country’s public transport capacity, if government wants to achieve its goal of restoring the economy to 75 percent capacity by this month. “Hindi babangon ang ekonomiya natin kung laging late o hindi makapasok ang mga empleyado dahil sa walang public transport,” she said.

Hontiveros also said that government should not push “untimely and unproductive” policies such as the virtual phaseout of traditional jeepneys during the pandemic, and instead just focus on service contracting and other programs that will directly address the problems faced by commuters and drivers alike.

“Unahin natin ang kapakanan ng mga commuter na ilang buwan nang nahihirapan bumiyahe, at mga driver at operator na ilang buwan nang nagugutom. We should not prolong the suffering of our kababayans, especially in this time of crisis,” Hontiveros concluded.

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