A week in after Pampanga shifts to the general community quarantine (GCQ), measures to allow the resumption of public transport are still adjusting, particularly public utility jeepneys (PUJs).
From the Department of Transportation’s (DOTr) guidelines, PUJs remain withheld from operating again as the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) is still studying how they will be able to return, already almost three months since the Luzon-wide quarantine has taken place.
“Pasensiya na po sa ating mga kapatid na namamasada ng jeepney. Pero pinag-aaralan pa po paano magkaroon ng social distancing sa ating mga jeepney,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a Laging Handa press briefing on May 30.
The loosened quarantine measures were announced by the government only three days before their implementation on June 1st, with the government strongly affirming the continued suspension of PUJs.
Pampanga PIO on Facebook posted on May 31 that this restriction does not apply to provinces set in GCQ. Such an announcement was a clarification that many did not know since the government is keen on reminding otherwise.
However, adjustments are still occuring in Pampanga as drivers of mass transport must first seize a special permit from LTFRB – Region III to authorize their comeback. To date, an exact number of active jeepney drivers are yet to be reported in spite of the already approved number of units allowed to roll out per route.
Coordinator and Spokesperson of Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (Piston) – Central Luzon Allan Bonifacio stated it has definitely not reached at least half of the 3,711 traditional jeepney units expected to operate in the 84 established routes in the province, and many are still waiting to receive their own special permit.
“Inilabas ng LTFRB Reg. 3 ang approved numbers per ruta ng mga bayan sa buong Region 3. Pero ang [mga] numerong yun ay di ibig sabihin ay may katumbas na PUJs nang makakabyahe dahil nga sa special permit na pahirap sa mga drivers at maliliit na operators. May ibang ruta na kailan lang nakakuha ng special permit,” Bonifacio said on an interview with The Angelite last June 9.
Off the road
Jeepney drivers themselves are also expected to design and regularly disinfect the inside of their jeepneys out of their own pockets. Aside from such expenses, those that are already able to operate cannot earn livable wages due to the limited capacity of the trips.
Governor Dennis “Delta” Pineda introduced a program called Tulong Pasada on June 5, where 500 jeepney drivers and operators in the whole province will receive a temporary subsidy worth PHP600 for fuel and other expenses.
“Then we are going to assess. Tignan ho natin kung kulang pa rin o papano. Titignan ho natin yung mga problema pa nun,” Gov. Pineda said.
Pampanga PIO has yet to update any details such as whether this is a ‘first come, first served’ basis, how many so far have already received the subsidy, how long this program will last, or whether all of the approved number of drivers will someday be accommodated.