OVP PHOTO

VICE-PRESIDENT Maria Leonor “Leni” G. Robredo on Friday said she was against the rushed modernization of the Metro Manila public transport system as this will harm both commuters and transport workers.

“We want the modernization of our public transport, but we do not want to give an additional burden to our passengers and drivers,” she said in a mix of English and Filipino in a statement. “We must not insist on policies that are crude and inappropriate in the context of a pandemic.”

She was referring to the implementation of the public utility vehicle (PUV) modernization program which disallows buses from surrounding provinces to enter Metro Manila during the pandemic.

Ms. Robredo – who is running for president in the upcoming elections on May 9 – said that the consolidation of public utility vehicle operators, the use of common terminals, and the mandatory upgrading of fleets of jeepneys should be put on hold.

“Our main focus now is to alleviate poverty, revive the economy, and control the spread of COVID (coronavirus 2019). Policies that are inappropriate and consistent with these objectives must be set aside first,” she added.

If integrated terminals are forcibly used during the pandemic, Ms. Robredo said the cost paid by passengers will increase because they have to switch to another transport vehicle when entering Metro Manila.

“Passengers are forced to take a ‘colorum’ van because it is more convenient and cheaper,” she added, but these vans are not regulated, so safety cannot be guaranteed. This may also lead to the rapid spread of COVID-19.

Passengers heading towards destinations in North Luzon would have to pay more to get to San Fernando, Pampanga, or Baguio, with additional fares increasing up to 96%, cited the vice-president.

With commuters’ preference for colorum – Filipino slang for illegal public utility vehicles – vans, the income of workers in the legal transport sector will also be reduced, Ms. Robredo said. “During a pandemic, the solution is to first let provincial buses enter Metro Manila and use their respective terminals.”

The vice-president also appealed for the government to provide support to the transport sector by providing subsidies and extending credit lines, given the limitations in the carrying capacity of PUVs.

BILATERAL LABOR AGREEMENTS

Meanwhile, during an online meeting with Filipinos overseas, Ms. Robredo said she plans to enter into more bilateral labor agreements with countries hosting overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to ensure their protection.

Speaking to the OFWs about her plans should she be elected president, she added that, “We will also ensure that the existing bilateral agreements are properly implemented,” noting countries in the Middle East where most contract violations occur.

She also plans to form an inter-agency task force that will handle the reintegration of OFWs who seek to return to the country. There will also be a coordinated stepladder program based on best practices, she added, saying that skills training will help returning OFWs find better jobs.

A one-stop migration resource center or a hub to ensure families left behind by OFWs stay connected and are provided for by the government, will also be made under a Robredo leadership she said. — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan