Jeepneys, long known as the king of Philippine roads, will return only if the current transportation options prove insufficient, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said today.
The Philippine-made vehicles have been banned since March when the lockdowns were first imposed in different parts of the country, presumably because social distancing is hard to enforce within them. Because of the Duterte administration’s decision, jeepney drivers are often seen begging for alms on the road, leading many Filipinos to appeal for their return.
Think tank group Ibon Foundation joined the chorus of supporters by saying that the coronavirus transmits faster in airconditioned vehicles such as cars, and that open-ventilation jeepneys are in fact the superior choice.
At present, many commuters are struggling because of the absence of jeepneys, and some of them have resorted to walking long distances or biking for hours just to arrive at their destinations.
Roque said in an interview with cable channel ANC that the Department of Transportation (DOTr) is still studying the prospect of allowing jeepneys to operate once again. At present, only privately-owned cars, buses, and modernized airconditioned jeepneys (which look more like tiny buses) are allowed to operate.
“The single most important criterion for the DOTr is the convenience of the riding public and if the buses and the modernized jeepneys will not be sufficient, yes, the DOTr would consider jeepneys and they have said so,” Roque said.
“They are looking at it now and they’re looking at the best way to ensure social distancing [and] hygiene in jeepneys but they have not included it because they want to know [first] if we have sufficient transportation [for commuters],” Roque said.
Roque said however that UV Express, or Asian utility vehicles that have been converted for mass transport, are likelier to make a comeback on the country’s roads. The government believes that the coronavirus will not spread easily among UV Express passengers because of the way they are seated.
“I think the UV Express stands a better chance than jeepneys [of returning] because the seating arrangement is you’re all facing the same direction and there’s no passenger facing each other [unlike in jeepneys],” said Roque.
Earlier this month, six jeepney drivers, collectively known as Piston 6, were arrested in Caloocan City for protesting and asking the government to allow them to go back to work. After the group was freed, two of them were found to have been infected with the coronavirus.
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