Seven months ago community quarantine started all over the country and by the same time, many daily wage earners had also ceased earning income due to restrictions implemented to their main source of livelihood, most especially those in the transport sector. In areas in the NCR, many were left begging in the streets for money and food. At present, less than 50% of Public Utility Jeepneys are allowed to ply their regular routes.
Although the LTFRB has already authorized the operation of many bus and jeepney operators, the subsistence of the pandemic have made it discouraging for the commuters, drivers and operators to sustain public transport. With fewer passengers today compared to pre-COVID times, drivers and operators worry about losses because of unsure level of travel demand.
As a response of the National Government, the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act, had allocated Five Billion Five Hundred Eighty Million Pesos (P5,580,000,000.00) to provide temporary livelihood to displaced workers in the transport industry through service contracting. Three Billion Pesos (P3,000,000,000.00) of which specifically for Public Utility Jeepney Drivers.
In a basic service contracting model, the government pays for the transport services on a fee per kilometer or fee per day arrangement, with incentives and penalties based on performance; and the fare collection goes to the government. This type of business model offers several advantages and is a reform for commuters, the drivers/operators and the government as well. On-street competition will be eliminated, stable and predictable services to commuters, stable income for operators, better conditions for drivers because of a fixed salary, and with the government able to command and control fleet of vehicles under a service contract.
The LTFRB, in Department Order 2020-017, was designated as the implementing agency for the said program. However, many doubts are raised that the LTFRB can implement the Service Contracting Program in a national scale. The Memorandum Circular recently issued by LTFRB last October 8, prescribing the guidelines in the implementation of the said program is even unclear as to how it will be selecting the participants of the program, more so, the role of LGUs. Initial discussions have shown that the LTFRB plans to pilot test the said program in Metro Manila and Metro Cebu. But what about the rest of the country? What about our drivers and operators who for seven months and counting are still left wandering for their daily sustenence. The only way to implement the said program efficiently and expeditiously is with the help of local government units. LGUs know their local conditions and transport needs best and the national agencies do not have sufficient capacity to deal with all jeepneys nationwide.
In the same Bayanihan Act, particularly in Section 4 (fff), the Department of Transportation is “directed to coordinate with transport service providers, transport cooperatives and LGUs to negotiate partially subsidized service contracting of public utility vehicles as a form of temporary livelihood to workers displaced by restrictions and reduced capacity of public transportation, and other forms of arrangement to ensure that livelihood in the transport sector is preserved.”
The said provision gives legal basis for LGUs to take part in the implementation of the Service Contracting Program. That is why, my dear colleagues, I am proposing in today’s regular session the passage of a resolution manifesting with the Department of Transportation the intent of the City Government of Naga to collaborate with the LTFRB in the implementation of the service contracting program in the City of Naga.
The pressure is not just on the National Government to take action. LGUs should also be accountable for public transport outcomes within their own territories. As a proactive measure, the least we could do is show the National Government that we, local officials, are willing to invest and take leadership to respond to the needs of our transport workers and commuters. Through this proposed resolution, we can show the City Government’s initiative believing that willingness to serve does not wait until it is asked for.
Madam Chair, fellow members of the Sanggunian, thank you for the time and a pleasant morning to all!