CEBU City Mayor Edgardo Labella is reportedly concerned over a Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) 7 decision that disallows the resumption of traditional jeepney operations in the city.
According to his spokesperson, Cebu City Attorney Rey Gealon, Labella will send a letter to the LTFRB Central Visayas ask-ing for a clarification.
“The mayor already wants passenger jeepneys to resume operations because this will really help the riding public and it will give jeepney drivers their livelihood,” Gealon said in Cebuano.
The operation of passenger jeepneys was ordered stopped since March when Cebu was placed under strict quarantine rules.
On Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020, the LTFRB announced that traditional public utility jeepneys (TPUJs) can now ply all cities and municipalities in Central Visayas except Cebu City and Mandaue City where there are “enough” buses and modern PUJs plying the roads.
The announcement came two days after the entire region shifted to the more relaxed modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) status from Sept. 1-30.
LTFRB 7 Director Eduardo Montealto Jr. said instead of TPU-Js, additional buses and MPUJs will be deployed in the cities of Cebu and Mandaue to cater to a growing number of commuters as more establishments begin to reopen.
This, so as not to compromise the health and safety of passengers, Montealto said.
Cebu City has a total of 4,500 registered TPUJs, according to the Cebu City Transportation Office.
Meanwhile, the Mandaue City Government fully accepts the LTFRB 7 decision.
John Eddu Ibañez, spokesperson of Mandaue City Mayor Jonas Cortes, assures they will continue to provide buses to commuters until jeepneys are again allowed to operate in the city.
Ibañez said there are times when buses are no longer sufficient to cater to the growing number of passengers, particularly during peak hours.
However, the company that partnered with Mandaue City will add more units to their existing fleet of 120 buses during peak hours, he said.
For Greg Perez, chairman of the Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operators Nation-wide (Piston)-Cebu, the decision to allow TPUJs to operate in all areas in the region except in Cebu City and Mandaue City was “unfair.”
Perez noted that Cebu City and Mandaue City had the most number of jeepneys plying different routes.
He said the LTFRB order does not answer their call on behalf of jeepney drivers and conductors who have been displaced for a long time due to the Covid-19 crisis.
He added it was unfair on the part of TPUJ operators and drivers to be replaced by buses in their usual routes only to serve as “backup” modes of transportation under the LTFRB’s Omnibus Guidelines for Transportation.
Perez also lamented that government action for displaced TPUJ drivers and conductors remained blurry with only a few of their members able to avail of government assistance.
Piston has around 500 operators and driver members in the cities of Cebu and Mandaue.
The LTFRB 7’s Montealto, however, remained firm in his decision not to allow TPUJs to operate in the two cities for now.
He said the LTFRB 7 will welcome any clarificatory communication coming from Cebu City. He will also meet with representatives from the transport sector on Saturday, Sept. 5.
“We give premium to health safety though we need to balance this with our economy. Minimum health protocol can be properly observed with these bigger units, especially social distancing, thermal scanning, disinfection of units at the end of their trips, and these are fleet managed,” Montealto told SunStar Cebu in a text message on Friday, Sept. 4. / JJL, KFD, WBS