Group to gov’t: Address transport woes amid COVID-19 pandemic

The Koalisyon ng Transportasyon para sa Mamamayan (KTM) called on the government to address the dire state of the transport sector and prioritize the development of an inclusive, safe, sustainable, and efficient transportation system as a key aspect of national recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.

KTM lamented the recent implementation of the Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP) and the revocation of franchise routes of traditional public utility vehicles (PUV), actions which were made without proper consideration of impacts to transport stakeholders.

“Thousands of drivers, conductors and operators of public vehicles have been out of work for months in observance of health protocols and are struggling amidst this pandemic. Apparently not content with ignoring their woes, our government decided to ultimately phase out their means of living by implementing the PUVMP under the guise of ‘modernization,’” Atty. Luke Espiritu of labor group Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP).

Implementation of the modernization program forwarded by the Department of Transportation (DOTR) and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) began with the operation of modernized PUVs, implementation of an e-payment system which makes conductors obsolete, and handing over of operating franchises to a few large-scale companies.

“With these, they are enabling large corporations and powerful interest groups to take advantage of a nation in paralysis,” said Espiritu.

The group expounded on the need for a better transportation system for all amidst the crisis, and questioned the integrity of the present modernization program.

“As drivers and commuters ourselves, we understand the transportation needs of people today and we, too, want better mobility systems,” Alex Yague of the Provincial Bus Operators Association of the Philippines (PBOAP) said.

“This is why we are opposed to what is going on— the lack of available transportation due to the suspension of traditional public utility vehicles causes commuters to crowd together as they scramble for a ride, exposing them to great health risks while making them pay more. Drivers and operators are displaced, and, in the end, the transport sector will be in the hands of a profiteering few,” 

    The group urged the government to withdraw the ‘modernization’ measures it has already set in place without considering the plight of affected groups, and demanded an inclusive pathway for the recovery and improvement of the transport industry.

“We challenge the government to take the responsible route of modernizing transportation. We call on them to return  jeepneys and buses to their previous routes with the necessary support to ensure health standards, and to protect the rights and tenure of transportation workers and commuters,”  Ed Laurentio of the National Land Transport Union (NLTU) said.

“ To this end, relief in the form of fuel subsidies and tax suspensions, and health care aid including testing and protective equipment, must also be provided. Most importantly, we urge them to listen to the voice of the public. Democracy must be upheld on all fronts – even on the road,” he added.

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