MANILA (19 June 2020) -– The chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee on Thursday called for the resumption of operations of provincial buses with minimum health standards strictly observed.

Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, panel chair, said a continuation of provincial bus bans would have “very little utility” as far as preventing infections is concerned and could cause “great damage” to the mobility of people who have to go to work.

Salceda said the economy will not fully recover until transport can be made operational.

“People are the driving force of the economy, and if people find it hard to move, the economy will likewise find it hard to get going,” he said.

“For stimulus plans to work, you need people to create value. If they’re stuck in the provinces or in Manila, away from where they usually create value, the stimulus will face serious roadblocks,” he added.

Salceda also warned against opportunistic behavior, saying “this is the worst time to step on other people to gain undue advantage.”

“This is a crisis. I expect people in the regulatory sector and in the business sector to make things easier for the people, not harder,” Salceda said.

“If there is an issue with pricing fares because I understand that due to social distancing, the supply of seats will be reduced, we should talk it out with the regulators,” he added.

He suggested that the government could come up with a program allowing provincial buses to operate at reasonable margins without compromising safety and health standards.

“But it has to be negotiated at the proper forum. Any attempt at price gouging should be monitored,” Salceda said.

Salceda said regulations that burden the ordinary commuters should also be avoided.

“There were attempts in the past to ban provincial passengers from Edsa and to channel all passenger traffic in Parañaque. Don’t do it in the middle of this crisis, when even going to Parañaque will prove to be a problem. Now is not the time. Don’t even think about it,” Salceda said.

Salceda noted that the transport system should be focused on the comfort and convenience of the commuter.

“We do not build transport systems so that private cars can have a smoother trip. We build transport systems so that the Filipino worker can go from home to work and back with well-deserved ease, earn a decent living, and create value for himself, his family, and his country,” he added. (ia/PNA)

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