Transport group calls for gov't aid for workers, operators as lockdown bites

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 14 2020 06:17 PM

Commuters and PUV drivers wear face masks as they travel in Quezon City on February 5, 2020. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - A Metro Manila transport group has appealed to the government for financial aid for transport operators, saying most of their workers have yet to receive any cash assistance promised under the national government's social amelioration program. 

President Rodrigo Duterte, on Monday said the government has given around 40,418 public transport drivers P5,000 to P8,000 in aid as of the third week of the Luzon lockdown.

An official of the Samahan ng mga Transport Operator ng Pilipinas, however, said she estimates that less than 5 percent of the group's 2,000 drivers have received cash assistance. 

"‘Ang nabalitaan ko po for every operator may 2 (driver), may 3. Suwerte na 'yung 10. Pinakarami na 'yung 12," Julia de Jesus said in an interview with ANC. 

(What I heard was that for every transport operator, there were 2 or 3 drivers who have received aid; the lucky ones had 10. The most had 12.)

De Jesus, managing director of the transport group of mostly bus operators, said the cash assistance should also not be limited to drivers. She said transport firms also employ conductors, maintenance personnel and administration staff who are as affected by the suspension of public transport operations under the lockdown. 

De Jesus said the group's members have already submitted their payroll to the labor department, but still only a small fraction of their workers have so far received aid. 

The group also appealed to the government to provide financial relief for transport operators, saying it would be difficult for them to pay loans and other bills even after the lockdown is lifted. 

De Jesus said many of their members have had to take out loans to comply with the Transportation Department's PUV modernization program. With revenues still uncertain, she said the government should ask banks to extend a 6-month moratorium on loan payments. 

She also said it was not financially feasible to limit buses to half their capacity in order to enforce physical distancing once the enhanced community quarantine ends. 

As an alternative, bus operators proposed to require all passengers to wear face masks. Conductors may also use thermal scanning devices to see if passengers have a fever. Those who show higher than normal temperatures may be barred from boarding the bus, she said.