By Antonio Colina IV
DAVAO CITY –The City Planning and Development Office (CPDO) head Ivan Cortez is set to meet with 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.
The head, Ivan Cortez, said that the city will try to ask the DOTr to increase the subsidy to P110,000 from P80,000 per unit for the “scrappage” program since the City Government will not avail of the national government’s jeepney modernization program.
The DOTr had agreed to exclude the city government from the jeepney modernization and has backed Davao’s plan to push through the bus system project instead, Cortez said.
“The DOTr likes the plan of Mayor Duterte (and) just wants to straighten out the social package program because what we are proposing does not fit to what DOTr offers,” he said.
If parties would agree on the social package scheme, Cortez said the DOTr will make a recommendation to the National Economic Development Authority-Investment Coordination Committee (NEDA-ICC) that will process the loan package for the HPBS from the Asian Development Bank.
“Given the directive to hasten the infrastructure projects, I don’t think DOTr will delay it. For as long as all papers are ready for evaluation, DOTr will take action,” he said.
Once the ADB loan is approved, Cortez said the initial implementation phase is expected 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.
He 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 the bus fleet.
He said Davao plans to build three bus terminals at the city’s three entry-exit points – inToril, in Panacan, and along the 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 compliance 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 will 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 Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).
“Ang uban maglisod og drive sa bus (Others find it hard to drive a bus),” he said, adding they are working on including TESDA in the program.