DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 17 February) – The government has allocated at least P900 million for jeepney operators and drivers to be affected by the implementation of the High Priority Bus System (HPBS), a mass public transport modernization program that seeks to decongest traffic here, an official from the Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor (PCUP) said.
In a press conference Monday, PCUP commissioner Norman B. Baloro said that the funds have already been set aside by six national government agencies tasked to provide assistance for the implementation of the social development program of the HPBS, which would affect 19,249 operators and drivers.
But as of February 14, the city government listed only a total of 2,451 applicants, comprising 19.98 percent of the total jeepney drivers and operators here, for the social development program.
Of the allotted amount, Baloro said P300 million would come from the Commission on Higher Education, P250 million from the Department of Transportation (DOTr), P50 million from the Department of Health, and P100 million each from the Department of Labor and Employment, Department of Trade and Industry, and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).
Baloro said the government would allocate additional funds from the P18.6 billion proposed budget for HPBS if the initial funding would not be sufficient to cover all displaced drivers and operators.
According to him, the social development program will include, among others, the scholarship of the children of affected drivers and operators, livelihood assistance, certificate course on bus driving for displaced operators and drivers who want to apply as HPBS drivers, and livelihood training for the family members with TESDA.
The HPBS will need around 3,000 bus drivers, he said.
The bus system seeks to improve the mass public transport and to address the worsening traffic congestion in the city.
In a press release last December 5, the DOTr announced that the bus system is scheduled for implementation from 2020 to 2023, and aims to “provide an efficient and affordable mode of transport for Dabawenyos through the delivery” of a modern HPBS.
It added that the interconnected bus services would be prioritized along the 137-kilometer (km) core network, and 489 km of feeder routes.
The proposed project has three components namely public transport system improvement, institutional capacity strengthening, and social development program.
The DOTr said that the HPBS or the project’s public transport system improvement component will involve the provision of hierarchical, interconnected bus services along major arterial roads, as well as an extensive network of feeder services covering the entire urban area.
Once operational, the HPBS will have 29 bus routes divided into the following four tiers: MetroDavao (will form the core services that connect all major commercial centers along five routes), DavaoInter (will run along with eight routes connecting the inner urban areas directly to the Davao Central Business District), DavaoFeeder (will run along nine routes linking smaller centers and areas of more dispersed populations to the MetroDavao services), and DavaoLocal (will provide a link between the outer rural areas of the city and main transport system or the integrated terminals). (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)