Press Release
June 8, 2020

'No ride, no work; no back ride, no jeepney ride' pushing up joblessness - Recto

You want to restart the economy? Then let PUVs restart their engines.

There are three important T's today: tests, trabaho, transportasyon. Screening for coronavirus is no longer a requisite for returning to work. But without a ride, there is no work. And no work, no pay.

Allowing workplaces to open without providing the people with the means to go there is like telling the President he can now cross the Pasig River from his residence to his office for as long he does not ride any boats.

That, today, is the sink-or-swim situation for the nation's breadwinners.

For starters, government can ease the brutal transportation lack by allowing husband-and-wife to ride a motorcycle in tandem. If they share the same bed at night, why can't they ride a bike together during the day?

It should also accelerate the setting up of safe bike lanes and the mass distribution of bicycles to workers.

Bike lanes are not complex, sunk-in-the-ground infra projects. And bikes are CBU, off-the-shelf items, unlike a new train which must undergo tedious procurement.

Allow jeepney and UV drivers--who have turned their fare boxes into begging bowls--to ply the roads again, subject to health conditions.

But they can go out and pasada again only if we partly subsidize the seats that we are compelling them to keep vacant. Running half-empty at the same old fares, further reduced for students and seniors, will be the final nail in their coffins.

And more buses, please, for they are the tickets out of temporary unemployment.

Subsidy is not an alien practice in mass transport. We're subsidizing MRT to the tune of P6 billion this year. So if they'll be running at 10% capacity, the 90% farebox loss will be covered by the taxpayer subsidy.

Same is true with PNR. For this year, we have given it P1.86 billion in subsidy, seven times bigger than its farebox collection, which in 2018 was P255 million, half of its payroll and operating expense of P504 million that year.

The Senate-approved bill reauthorizing the Bayanihan Act earmarks P17 billion for bike lanes, sidewalks, bicycles and other things which form the foundation of a national bicycle infrastructure. That amount includes test runs for a "service contracting scheme" for PUVs.

We hope that the above can be implemented sans the sequel of a Bayanihan Act. We are at the point in the pandemic that, to paraphrase Deng, it no longer matters if the jeep is black or white, for as long it carries people.

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