LESS than half of the original number of traditional public utility jeepneys (PUJs) will be allowed to operate again in Cebu City.
Before the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic started in March, 5,044 PUJs plied the city’s streets. However, only around 1,000 units can return, said City Councilor James Anthony Cuenco, chairman of the task force assigned to study the return of traditional PUJs.
“Among members of the task force, we came up with a consensus that traditional jeepneys will be allowed back,” he said in a mix of Cebuano and English.
The move did not sit well with transport group Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operation Nationwide (Piston).
Piston Cebu coordinator Greg Perez wanted to know what the task force had in plan for the 4,000 traditional PUJ drivers who would lose their livelihood.
“What will happen to all those displaced drivers and their families? They have relied on driving traditional PUJs for their income,” Perez said in Cebuano.
Last March, when the government started to implement health protocol like social distancing in the public transportation sector, traditional PUJs were the first to feel the impact since these could only carry a limited number of passengers.
Cuenco urged affected drivers to avail themselves of programs introduced by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) to mitigate the effects of the comprehensive system reform.
Citing LTFRB 7 Director Eduardo Montealto, he said the drivers can undergo skills training on welding, among others.
Cuenco said they’re also encouraging drivers to take advantage of the loan being offered for the purchase of a modernized jeepney.
Perez, for his part, said they will continue to plead to the government to let them return to the streets, saying most of them do not have any options.
“We will continue to ask the government to let us ply our routes again and to offer us financial assistance. We have nowhere else to go,” Perez said in Cebuano.
Cuenco said the task force is fast-tracking the task given to it, targeting to conduct three sets of consultation meetings so reports will then be submitted to the mayor.
On Monday, Oct. 5, 2020, Cuenco said he will meet with traditional PUJ drivers, operators and other stakeholders like the riding public to introduce to them the conditions set by the LTFRB, as well as to hear their concerns.
Cuenco said pursuant to LTFRB guidelines, only units that can pass the road worthiness standard will be allowed to operate.
He said the drivers’ performance like their ability to follow traffic rules will also be considered. They will also check if the drivers have pending traffic violations from last year, he said.
He said operators and drivers must strictly implement the health protocol once they’re back on the streets.
“But we will be very stringent this time because, of course, they must comply with the several conditions the LTFRB has pointed out if they want to resume operations,” Cuenco said in a mix of Cebuano and English.
The City Planning and Development Office, according to Cuenco, has also proposed new routes.
With the impending return of traditional PUJs, the councilor said traffic enforcers of the City Transportation Office have been directed to apprehend PUJ drivers who do not stop, pick up or drop off passengers at designated loading and unloading zones to control traffic.
Inputs from their meeting on Monday will be consolidated for proper endorsement to the mayor on Thursday, Oct. 8, Cuenco said. (JJL)