Abrigo: The birth pain of overdue HPBS

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IS DAVAO City ready to deliver the long conceived modernized transportation system? A resounding answer is “No, not yet!” because the High Priority Bus System (HPBS) project is like a lump in the throat of the drivers and operators, hard and painful to swallow.

The conception of HPBS is a good tiding as a response to the country’s goal of Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP) that is environment friendly. The project is supposed to be implemented this quarter of 2020.

But at close look to the bits and details of the transition, the impact is hefty to 6,985 PUJ operators accredited by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB), and the 12,264 PUJ drivers accredited by the City Transport and Traffic Management Office (CTTMO).

The impact becomes apparent as figure speaks after a series of consultations. Out of 12,264 drivers and 6,985 operators, only about 300, or a negligible percentage signified interest to date, to take the hook, line and sinker of the government’s compensation package if the project is implemented. The vast majority remained adamant and undecided.

The city intends to phase out the 7,000 public utility jeepneys of 29 routes in the city that will be replaced with 1,000 “Life Buses”. By the way “life bus” is a chosen name to engrain Davao’s slogan that “life is here.”

HPBS will only employ 3,000 TESDA NC III holders. For the rest who will be displaced, “life is no longer here” in driving. And that is the very reason why many are hesitant to this kind of transport modernization.

Sometimes change could be a very painful process especially to some of them who are on the wheels for more than 20 years. Some of them at their age are no longer receptive to new trainings if only to drive gigantic vehicles. Some of them, who failed to the standard of the HPBS, will refuse to explore new trade or livelihood as they feel peg only in driving. And some of them find that self-employed driving is more relaxing compared to an eight-hour duty-bound employment.

Well, the local government is determined to push HPBS and has prepared the social compensation packages for the struck sector like, a scholarship for one dependent to a four-year course in college; free Technical Vocational Training through Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA); cash assistance from the city’s Social Development Program (SDP) amounting to P540 million; and P96 million worth of livelihood kits from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

Even if the government has not yet prepared the bidding guidelines for the interested operators, no final requirements of the franchise, no trained drivers yet, no terminals yet; the implementation is certain. And the intensifying birth pain is a fail-safe manifestation that HPBS will see the first light anytime this year!


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