Partido Reporma chairman and standard-bearer Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson has called for the inclusion of traditional jeepneys into the Libreng Sakay (free ride) program of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) for essential workers amid the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.
Lacson broached the idea during his consultation meeting with members of the Federation of Jeepney Operators and Drivers Association of the Philippines (FEJODAP) Calabarzon chapter in Lipa City, Batangas on Tuesday.
According to the transport leaders Lacson had spoken to, the state-funded free transportation services affected the income of some traditional jeepney drivers since more passengers decided to take only public buses and modern jeepneys that are included in the program.
“The free rides in public buses, which you said also burdened some jeepney drivers because it took away some of your passengers, why don’t we use that Libreng Sakay for traditional jeepneys as well to be subsidized by the government?” Lacson said.
Incorporating traditional jeepneys into the Libreng Sakay program, he said. is possible since they have allocated a P5.58-billion budget to aid low-income families, including public utility vehicle (PUV) drivers, under the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act or the Bayanihan II.
The presidential aspirant mentioned that he and his running mate Senate President Vicente ‘Tito’ Sotto III have been closely monitoring the implementation of Bayanihan II to prevent cases of unequal distribution of assistance again, especially among the PUV drivers.
Lacson also told the FEJODAP members that he would revisit their concerns over the jeepney modernization plans of the government as many traditional jeepney drivers and operators remain unprepared for its full implementation.
The incumbent senator said this issue has already been brought to his attention by former FEJODAP national president Zenaida Maranan before she passed away last year, which actually led to some lawmakers questioning the viability of the program as well.
“We have looked into it and figured it is really not viable. It will not work because you are not prepared. Before you change things, you have to be ready. You have to prepare the people on the ground and see if they can take it… I don’t think they [DOTr] were able to do that,” he said.
“So, we also opposed the program. While they slowly tried to implement it, they cannot enforce it completely or fully because it encountered a lot of problems. There are so many issues that remain unresolved,” he added. Macon Ramos-Araneta