Press Release
May 19, 2020

Transport joins testing, tracking as urgent problems, but 'ghosted' by gov't stimulus plan

"Test, track and treat" are not the only concerns of workers. Travel and transport are, too. They can only get back to work if they can go to places of work safely without COVID hitching a ride.

But the new normal in the pandemic world calls for public transport with reduced capacity and higher operating expense, and yet financially viable to operate.

The adjustments will cost money - small by Ramon Ang standards, but a fortune for a jeepney driver or an independent taxi operator who hasn't seen a fare for more than two months.

The installation of plastic dividers in taxis, dividing curtains in jeepneys, the migration to cashless fare will be a big investment for them.

Even the regular disinfection of vehicles is another cost that will whittle down their daily income. Alcohol "na hindi lang pang-sports, pang-pasada pa" will not be given for free.

Add to these the requirement for jeepney and van drivers to record the names and contact numbers of their passengers and they will have their hands full, literally.

Government should assist their transition to the new normal. Their crucial role entitles them a place in front of the line for the stimulus fund. After all, what they get from the government will not be for their personal consumption, but to retool the vehicles for the riding public's safety.

Such assistance also does not require project proposals or complex financial spreadsheets. It is retail spending, which can be carried out with ease.

But in the plethora of government proposals - PH-PROGRESO Plan of the economic managers, to cite one - the transport sector does not seem to have a prominent and urgent role. It appears they have been ghosted by the government.

No discussion sa emergency stage. Ganoon din sa recovery at resilience stages.

Hindi dapat, lalo na't napakalaki ng problemang kinakaharap nila at ng ibang uri ng mass transport tulad ng tren, airlines, mga bus, at barko.

Even before COVID, MRT, LRT and PNR were already struggling to operate above capacity. Social distancing now forces them to deeply slash their ridership: LRT-1 by 85%, LRT-2 by 90%, MRT-3 by 87%, PNR Metro North Commuter by 81%, and PNR Metro South Commuter by 80%.

Ang sa LRT 1 na 347 passengers per train car, magiging 52 na lang; sa LRT, ang dating 407 passengers per car, magiging 40; at sa MRT, from 394 per car down to 51.

To say this is catastrophic for passengers, who months ago would queue for hours for the chance to squeeze themselves into packed coaches is an understatement. An LRT and MRT with reduced capacity will be more fearsome than the Train to Busan.

If social distancing will be enforced on domestic airlines and provincial buses, it will result in higher ticket prices, and longer waiting time to book passage.

Ganoon din sa mga pampasaherong barko. 228 RORO ships, 68 fast crafts and 402 conventional ships will face existential challenges.

Any semblance of normalcy requires us to move people and products around safely. Absent this, is a picture of an economy at a standstill.

Kaya dapat pagdating sa government spending, attention and resources, hindi dapat nakikiangkas lang sa estribo ang transportasyon - dapat sila ay nasa front seat.

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