By Lisbet K Esmael/Manila Times
A group of jeepney drivers and operators is far from satisfied with the government’s decision to allow 6,002 jeepneys back on Metro Manila’s roads.
The jeepneys started plying 49 routes in the metropolis on Friday.
Mar Valbuena, president of the Samahang Manibela Mananakay at Nagkaisang Terminal ng Transportasyon, told Manila Times the 6,002 units were a mere fraction of the 50,986 public utility jeepneys or PUJs that were sidelined by the coronavirus lockdown.
Valbuena said the group alone has about 12,000 members who are jeepney drivers, but only about 500 drivers have been allowed to ply 49 routes.
He was also worried that the drivers might not find returning to the road profitable because the government failed to provide a fuel subsidy and there were not enough passengers.
The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) also ordered operators to maintain only half of a jeepney’s seating capacity to mitigate the spread of the virus.
Jeepney drivers and operators also have to chip in to pay a minimum of P1,000 for rented terminals, which is already “expensive,” Valbuena noted.
To make ends meet, Valbuena said some jeepney drivers are providing shuttle service for private companies.
Early this week, the LTFRB said old jeepney operators and drivers must observe health protocols, such as checking of body temperature, wearing masks and gloves at all times, and operating at a maximum of 50% capacity.
The Department of Transportation has been pushing for a cashless payment system through a quick response code (QR code), and it has given jeepney operators and drivers until today to comply.
The LTFRB has been reiterating that reopening public transportation but at reduced capacity was a “gradual, calibrated and calculated approach” to fighting the coronavirus.
The resumption of mass transportation was done in two phases.
From June 1 to 21, only trains and bus augmentation, taxis, transport network vehicle services, shuttle services, point-to-point buses, to be operational at limited capacity.
From June 22-30, public utility buses, modern public utility vehicles (PUVs), and UV Express have been added and allowed to ply in general community quarantine areas, while still keeping the limited passenger capacity.
Last Monday, almost 1,000 UV Express units were allowed to service 47 routes in Metro Manila and nearby provinces.
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