Davao City wants more subsidy for jeepney operators to be affected in new bus system

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 1 March) – The head of the City Planning and Development Office (CPDO) here is set to meet with officials from the Department of Transportation (DOTr) in Manila on Friday to negotiate for a higher government subsidy for jeepney operators who will be affected once the implementation of the High Priority Bus System (HPBS) goes full throttle.

Ivan Cortez said in an interview on Tuesday that the city will try to ask if the DOTr can work on increasing the subsidy to P110,000 from P80,000 per unit turned over for the “scrappage” program since the City Government will not avail of the national government’s jeepney modernization program.

The DOTr agreed to exclude the city government from the jeepney modernization and back its plan to push through with the bus system project instead, Cortez said.

“The DOTr likes the plan of Mayor [Sara Duterte]. They just want to straighten out the social package program because what we are proposing does not fit to what they offer,” he said.

If parties would agree on the social package scheme, Cortez said the DOTr would make a recommendation to the National Economic Development Authority-Investment Coordination Committee (NEDA-ICC) that would process the loan package for the HPBS from the Asian Development Bank.

“Given the directive to hasten the infrastructure projects, I don’t think they (DOTr) will delay it. For as long as all papers are ready for evaluation, they will take action,” he said.

Once the ADB loan is approved, Cortez said they expect the initial implementation phase to commence by 2019. This will include acquisition of road-right-of-way; construction of bus stops, bus depots, and terminals; and retrofitting of intersections.

The full implementation of HPBS may take place by 2020 or 2021, he said.

Cortez said the HPBS requires three to six operators and local bus operators are welcome to bid for as long as they meet the specifications of the bus system, including the number of fleet.

He said they plan to build three bus terminals at the city’s three entry-exit points – Toril, Panacan, and one along Bukidnon-Davao Highway – so that passengers entering the city will ride the bus system to lessen the number of vehicles plying within the city.

He said the operators may not opt to turn over their jeepneys to government and may still choose to continue using their units as private vehicles but they must ensure to comply with the Anti-Smoke Belching Ordinance of the city.

Cortez said a separate assistance will be provided to drivers to cushion the impact of the bus system on them, “but nothing is definite, the legal team of national agencies involved will look into ways how it will be legally possible to extend assistance to affected stakeholders.”

He said the city estimated 10,000 workers would be employed in the HPBS, a number more than enough to absorb all 7,000 drivers who risk losing their livelihood.

However, he said drivers who want to be employed as bus drivers must undergo and pass the training to be conducted by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).

“Others may find it hard to drive a bus,” he said, adding they are working on including TESDA in the program. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)