28,000 jeepney drivers remain in limbo, as LTFRB yet to finish route scheme

Katrina Domingo and Sherrie Ann Torres, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 02 2020 08:06 PM

Jeepney driver Alberto Manuel Jr. solicits help along Rizal Avenue in Manila on June 22, 2020. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - Some 28,000 drivers of public utility jeepneys may not know when they'll be hitting the road again, as the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) on Friday said it has yet to finalize a so-called "route rationalization plan" 7 months since Luzon was placed on a lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The plan aims to merge some routes to decongest main roads prone to traffic congestion.

Of 50,000 jeepney drivers in the country, only 21,880 have returned to work under eased community quarantine regulations in various regions, according to LTFRB data.

"It's a moving target because we are opening routes every week... allowing thousands of drivers to resume," LTFRB chair Martin Delgra said in a Senate budget hearing.

"Kapag natapos na po itong malalaking route rationalization study... we would be able to push further the modernization program."

(When this big route rationalization study is done, we will be able to push further the modernization program.)

But senators Nancy Binay and Grace Poe criticized the regulatory agency for not finishing the plan, which has been in the works since 2017.

" 'Yung route rationalization na 'yan, matagal na 'yang pinag-uusapan... Hanggang ngayon wala pa kaya bitin na bitin 'yung iba kung may trabaho pa ba sila o wala na," Poe said.

(We've been talking about that route rationalization for a long while now . . . It has been completed until now, that's why some drivers don't know if they still have jobs or not.)

Binay added: "It's been almost 7 months. Kawawa naman itong mga jeepney drivers natin, 'yung iba sa kanila nanlilimos na."

(Some of the jeepney drivers are so poor already that they have been asking for alms.)

A recent study by Ibon Foundation showed that thousands of jeepney drivers in Metro Manila have lost P78,000 each since Luzon was locked down in March.

Each jeepney driver in the capital region used to work 6 days a week and earned at least P1,000 daily on a 12-hour shift, Ibon said.

"This translates to a total net income loss of P78,000 or P26,000 per month of lockdown," the study noted.

Senators also reminded the DOTr to help jeepney and bus conductors find new jobs as the transportation sector shifts to contactless payment schemes to avoid the possible transmission of COVID-19.