Transport sector wants gov’t support amid pandemic

The Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Tutol sa Phase Out (STOP! – WPL) joined the Senate hearing conducted via video conference by the Senate Committee on Public Services and the Committee on Local Government today delving on P.S. Resolution No. 3790 Resolution directing Senate Committee on Public Services to conduct an inquiry on resumption of public transportation to restore mobility and livelihood amid the pandemic.

Dan Yumul, STOP! – WPL National Spokesperson said: “Jeepney drivers and operators were among the sectors hit hard by the enhanced community quarantine. Only a small number of affected drivers were able to receive relief like SAP or other support from LGUs but a large number are left to fend on their own or even resorted to begging  in order to bring food on their tables”.

DSWD data shows that only 40,418 out of the 90,000 DoTR target have received aid. This means only 27 out of every ten thousand SAP beneficiaries comes from the transport sector. This number fades in the background if we consider the 435,619 LTFRB’s list (as of April 8, 2020) of target beneficiaries. There was no explanation for the almost 500% difference between LTFRB and DoTR targets. 

“Clearly, road worthy vehicles like jeeps and buses are at a disadvantage even if ECQ becomes GCQ given that DOTR preference for prototype jeepneys. It’s a bid to undermine the livelihood of many”, laments Yumul. DOTR also encouraged undertakings of Jeepney Operators Drivers Association’s (JODA) being transformed into cooperatives or corporations and asked banks for grace period for loans and borrowers in relation to PUVMP.

“Social distancing due to COVID-19 is used as pretext to impose the pro-privatization phase-out program that will eventually sideline public utility jeepney including UV Express’ drivers and operators,” stated STOP-WPL.

“Even the requirement for a special permit is another layer of bureaucracy that may be used to traverse routes could be abused to deprived us of our livelihoods,” quotes Yumul. 

STOP!-WPL pointed out that jeepney have played a historical and practical role in citizens mobility from their homes to workplaces, delivery of goods, food from rural places to markets and factories, ensure flow of services, commerce and social relations, especially at this juncture wherein it is vital to restart our nation’s economy.

Yumul emphasized that in re-starting transportation safety of drivers and commuters need to be assured, aid and relief need to be distributed in an effective and efficient manner and for the local and national government to give added support for the transport sector including providing free COVID 19 tests, PPEs, fuel subsidy, and moratorium in payment of taxes and other fees as well as consideration with loan payments while under lockdown. 

Here below are some of the demands from the position paper submitted to Senate: 

a.) Safety of drivers and commuters. Regular disinfections of terminals and designated pick-up points; provide PPE to drivers; set-up disinfection area and provide thermal scanners for point of origins and pick up points; install separators of drivers and passengers to ensure physical distancing; drivers must be regularly tested and help should be extended to those who will get sick.

b.) Aid or relief for drivers and their families. The group urges the government to stop using D.O. 2017-011 to harass the transport sector; do away with special permits, exemption of fees like PAMI registration, common carrier tax, among others; provide Php 5,000 – 8,000 SAP; and Php 1,000 weekly pasada subsidy from the local government until the pandemic is effectively arrested .

c.) Role of the local government in implementing the general community quarantine. Provide 50% fuel subsidy based on daily fuel consumption and identify gasoline stations giving discounts to PUVs; continuous financial subsidy; undo policies that puts the burden on drivers and operators such as the special permit; suspend fees exacted by agencies regarding license and franchise renewal extension; strengthen coordination between local government and associations of public transports for their legitimate needs under GCQ and the new normal; and allow supervision of transport organizations to ensure fair implementation travel policies.

“Public transport plays a vital role in the resumption of our economy; government must begin to treat us as part of the solution, listen to our voices and be truly responsive to our needs,” quips Yumul. 

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