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Group hits DOTr for saying ‘gov’t is not anti-poor:’ Prove it to jeepney drivers

By: Gabriel Pabico Lalu - Inquirer.net | June 27,2020 - 11:31 AM

MANILA, Philippines — An activist group has challenged the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to prove that they are not “anti-poor” by helping jeepney drivers affected by the pandemic, which is to let them operate again.

According to Anakbayan, the government should not resort to “theatrics” at a time when drivers are suffering from the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, as they are still not allowed to operate due to concerns over a supposed higher risk of coronavirus transmission inside traditional jeepneys.

Earlier, DOTr Assistant Secretary Goddes Hope Libiran insisted that they are not anti-poor, rather, they are just doing what is right for the majority of the people.

“What the affected drivers and operators are calling for is clear—to let them have their livelihoods back while providing assistance to make their units more social distancing-friendly,” Anakbayan spokesperson Alex Danday said.

“Now is the time for action—for responding to the needs of your constituents, not for theatrics and mental gymnastics,” she added.

Libiran listed a myriad of reasons why old and worn out jeepneys should not be allowed to ply the streets, including supposed health hazards that may weaken a person’s immune system amid the pandemic and accidents brought by dilapidated vehicles

“Ang sinasabi nilang solusyon sa problema ay ang pagbabalik ng mga luma at karag-karag na jeepney sa kalsada. Hindi mo maitatama ng isang mali ang isa pang mali,” she added.

(According to them, thesolution is to bring back the old and worn out jeepneys on the streets.  You cannot correct a mistake by making another mistake.)

The fate of the traditional jeepneys currently hangs in limbo after Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said that UV Express vehicles have a higher chance of operating again, due to the perceived concerns brought by jeepneys’ seating arrangements — despite views that vehicles with air-conditioning units might pose more dangers.

But last Sunday, after modern jeepneys were allowed to roam Metro Manila streets again, Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) chair Martin Delgra said that jeepneys and UV Express vehicles are not out of their timetable, and that they may return within the month.

Just recently, critics of the government including Vice President Leni Robredo hoped that the COVID-19 pandemic would not be used to justify the phasing out of old jeepneys, especially as think tank group Ibon Foundation says drivers have already lost P78,000 worth of income through the lockdown.

Instead of focusing on the jeepney phaseout, Anakbayan urged the government to do mass coronavirus testing and to give marginalized families sufficient aid.

“The national government should prioritize conducting mass testing and providing sufficient aid to vulnerable sectors, yet they have been more concerned with painting drivers and commuters as ‘anti-development,’” Danday explained.

“Drivers and operators are against the PUV phaseout because it is an affront to their livelihood, especially now that it has been three months without any stable source of income due to [President Rodrigo] Duterte’s slow and inefficient pandemic response,” she added.

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