DAVAO CITY – Public transport drivers and operators opposed a city council proposal to build a public bus system, saying this would displace 22,500 jeepney and trycicle drivers in the city.
Some fifty drivers and operators led by the transport federation Transmision picketed the city council’s session Tuesday, as transport leaders said the council’s transportation committee chair Leo Avila III failed to consult them on this issue.
The committee’s proposal came up last year through a Davao Urban Sustainable Transport Project study led by the Policy and Advisory Technical Assistance (Pata).
The study aimed to find reforms in improving the country’s transport system to address growing urban population such as in Davao City. It was funded by the Japan fund for Poverty Reduction and is handled by Asia Halcrow and Transport and Traffic Planners (TTPI) Inc.
Halcrow released the results of their study last October in a public forum that offered four options for the city, namely: conventional bus services, highly prioritized bus services, bus rapid transit and light rail transit.
The firm said bus service is better suited for Davao City because buses accommodate up to 90 passengers; the city has at least 10,000 passengers.
But Transmision secretary general Edil Gonzaga said the proposal is a “misdirected because drivers are being blamed for the traffic congestion.”
“If the councilors will come down from the city council building, they would see the problem of congestion right in front of him in San Pedro Street,” Gonzaga pointed at the road across the council where private vehicles have occupied the side of the streets.
“Avila’s claim that the public transport system is problematic is false. Public utility vehicles account only 15% of the vehicles running around the city, while 85% are private vehicles which causes congestion especially when they park on the side of the streets and overlap on our yellow box lanes,” said Gonzaga.
Gonzaga also said the proposed bus units would cause more congestion as these buses are way larger than the transit buses of Bachelor Express.
“Can you imagine our streets in Boulevard or Quirino crowded with buses?” asked Gonzaga.
The transport leader expressed concern that the council has to address the livelihood of the families of public utility drivers who will be out of work if the bus system comes and force them out of the streets. Around 230,000 family members will be affected with the proposed transport scheme.
He said the project stated that around 500 buses would be fielded in the city, and with that number only a few public utility drivers and conductors could be absorbed to this new scheme.
“This scheme is not good for the future of our families, this will kill the drivers,” Gonzaga said.
But the transportation committee vice-chair Louie John Bonguyan said the council is still undertaking more consultations to hear out the side of the drivers before coming out with a final design on the public transport system.
Bonguyan told Davao Today that the bus system is still a recommendation that has to be subjected to consultations.
“We are still too far from that,” he said. “We need more consultations. We know that the hardest hit are the PUJ drivers, and since the project involves the public, we want this project to include the side of the drivers.”
Other drivers told Davao Today that both local and national government should come up with better plans to uplift the poor.
Leoncito Trinidad, a public utility driver for four decades now at age 65, said drivers like him are barely surviving with high prices of gasoline and commodities. He said if government could only provide jobs, they could have other options other than driving.
A jeepney driver plying the Matina route, mocked Avila’s proposal that drivers would be taught other jobs such as farming.
“Gikan ko sa pag-uma sa Davao del Sur, unya nabalhin ko diri, unya tudloan pa ko unsaon pag-uma? (I was farming in Davao del Sur before coming here, now they want to teach me?),” he said.
Gonzaga said their group is open to talks and improvement of the transport system provided that their concerns and suggestions would be included in the council’s public consultations.
The project is aimed to finish by 2015 or 2016.
The council did not tackle the proposal as Avila was out of the country.(Tyrone A. Velez/davaotoday.com)