OF THE more than 5,000 public utility jeepneys, traditional or otherwise, that used to ply the streets of Cebu City before the coronavirus pandemic struck last March, only 19 can go back on the road.
As of Friday, Nov. 20, 2020, that is.
It looks like the City Government is in no hurry to see them return. Otherwise, why dilly-dally with all those requirements and restrictions? Although, in fairness to the City, I think it is only complying with Inter-Agency Task Force guidelines and preparing for the full implementation of the Duterte administration’s Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP).
Under the program, jeepneys, buses and other PUVs that are at least 15 years old were supposed to be phased out this year, but this was moved to next year because of the current health crisis.
At least, that was my understanding of the situation. Either way, operators and drivers of PUVs that fall under this category should allow the reality to sink in that their days are numbered.
I mean, it’s hard to miss the writing on the wall, so to speak.
So many hurdles have to be overcome for the units to be allowed to resume operation.
First of all, they must be deemed roadworthy. They must have barriers, a drop box for the fare and disinfectant. They must display a poster listing health protocols. Each unit must also pass an emission test.
Once a unit passes inspection, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board still has to issue a special permit and the Cebu City Transportation Office (CCTO) still has to issue the travel line.
As for the drivers, they must get swabbed for the coronavirus disease 2019 and test negative. They must also attend a seminar that will be conducted by the CCTO.
No wonder, only 19 units have been given the go-ahead.
Apparently, nowadays, it’s easier for a camel to pass through an eye of a needle than for a traditional jeepney to return to the streets.
Don’t get me wrong. My heart really does go out to those who will be affected by the PUVMP. Most of them have been out of a job for the last eight months. However, I also believe the riding public deserves better.
Traditional jeepneys have had the run of the roads since after the end of the war way back in 1945. That’s quite a long time. Which is why most Filipinos don’t know any better because they grew up with the jeepney, which has even become a cultural icon.
But is that what we want?
Don’t we deserve a modern PUV that is designed to be environmentally-friendly, safe, secure and convenient with due consideration to passengers who are persons with disabilities, as the Department of Transportation put it?
With that said, I hope the government will have provisions for those operators and drivers who will be left behind. Because, judging by the current trend, there will be thousands who will be needing new means of livelihood.