The Department of Transportation (DoTr) on Monday wants to increase the operational capacity of public utility vehicles (PUV) to 100 percent amid the loosening of restrictions in Metro Manila.
At the consultative meeting of the agency’s 2022 proposed budget in the Senate, DOTr Assistant Secretary for Road Transport and Infrastructure Steve Pastor disclosed that the department is set to defend its recommendation to restore the full seating capacity in public transportation before the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) on Thursday, 28 October.
“We submitted a formal position paper to the IATF to increase the seating capacity from 50 percent. If we will decide, we want it at 100 percent and that is based on the medical literature that is available,” said Pastor.
“At the same time, we are ready to defend our position to the IATF this Thursday. As we all know, we should recourse our appeal to the IATF because this is not only a matter of public transportation but also a matter of public health,” he added.
The suggestion, however, did not sit well with Senators Nancy Binay and Imee Marcos who pointed out that PUV are already operating above the allowed 50 percent capacity.
“The permission that you are appealing to the IATF is already impasse because on the ground, jeepneys are already jammed,” Binay said.
Her remark was agreed upon by Marcos who added: “That’s what I am going to ask. Are you inspecting? Because that 50 percent capacity is already a laughingstock.”
In a media forum last week, Pastor said the DoTr will recommend the increase in operational capacity amid the downgrading of quarantine status in Metro Manila to help commuters and PUV drivers who were affected by the ill-effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
The reduced passenger demand along with the higher fuel costs caused transport groups to ask the DoTr for a fare hike — a move that Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade rejected.
Tugade said the DoTr is currently looking at other measures including the granting of incentives for PUV drivers.
Senators to monitor DBCC cash grant
During the same hearing, the Senate panel welcomed the announcement of the Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC) that it will distribute P1-billion worth of cash assistance to 178,000 bonafide PUV drivers for the remaining months of the year.
It was Marcos, chairperson of the Senate committee on economic affairs, who shared the development and vowed to keep a close watch on the distribution.
DBCC said the cash grant will be released through the Pantawid Pasada Program of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board and will be charged under the unprogrammed funds for infrastructure projects and social programs in the 2021 national budget.