By Arjay L. Balinbin, Reporter
ABOUT 14,000 workers of provincial bus firms have lost their jobs due to operational restrictions, according to bus operators, warning that another 10,000 may be let go because of the implementation of cashless fare systems.
In a telephone interview, Alex R. Yague, executive director of Provincial Bus Operators Association of the Philippines, told BusinessWorld that about 14,000 workers lost their jobs due to the three-month coronavirus lockdown.
“For each bus, tatlong pamilya ang nakasalalay dyan. ‘Yung pamilya ng driver, pamilya ng kundoktor, at pamilya ng support staff — ito ‘yung mga mekaniko, dispatcher, inspektor, ticket seller sa terminals, at mga nagtatrabaho sa mga opisina (Each bus supports three families — that of the driver, conductor and a member of the support staff like mechanics, dispatchers, inspectors, ticket sellers and office personnel),” Mr. Yague said.
Provincial buses have not been allowed to enter or leave Metro Manila due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, affecting at least 10,000 buses.
Mr. Yague said the government now wants to require an automatic fare collection system for all buses.
“So hindi na namin kakailanganin ng kundoktor kung sakaling they allow us to operate again. Ang second wave ng mga matatanggal will be all the conductors (We won’t need conductors if and when we are allowed to operate again. The second wave of job losses will be conductors),” he said.
He estimated that “10,000 conductors will be jobless due to the automatic fare collection system.”
Mr. Yague said the government should allow provincial buses to enter and leave Metro Manila “under the present system” with conductors, which are needed for their operations.
He also said there should be pre-testing for all conductors and drivers before each trip to ensure that they are COVID-19-free.
“Also, kung makakabyahe na kami, ang request namin ay dapat diretso na kami sa mga terminal namin sa loob ng Metro Manila, kasi kapag pinutol nila ‘yung linya namin up to Bocaue, Bulacan or Santa Rosa, Laguna, passengers will be forced to take up two three rides bago sya makapasok ng Metro Manila, so the risk of getting infected will be higher (When we are allowed to operate, our request is to be allowed to go straight to our terminals in Metro Manila, because if we are stopped in Bocaue, Bulacan or Santa Rosa, Laguna, passengers will need more rides just to reach Metro Manila, increasing the risk of infection,” he added.