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Restore jeepneys and tricycles

/ 05:05 AM March 21, 2020

Of all the restrictions laid down by the government’s lockdown policy, the one that causes sacrifice to the great majority of people is the total shutdown of jeepneys and tricycles from public operation.

Jeepneys and tricycles are what the masses rely on to reach the places where they buy food and the most basic necessities. It’s painful enough that the high-occupancy commuter trains and buses are shut down; why insist on taking out the low-occupancy jeepneys and tricycles, too?

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Only a few households have their own motor vehicles. Luzon has 14.3 million households, as of the Third Quarter of 2019: 3.3 million in the National Capital Region (NCR), and 11.0 million in the Balance of Luzon (BL). The household ownership of any kind of motor vehicle was found to be only 30 percent in NCR, and 52 percent in BL, in the 2019Q3 SWS survey.

Ownership of a four-wheeled motor vehicle is 6.3 percent in NCR, and 7.3 percent in BL. More than 9 out of 10 Filipino households have not a single car, jeep, or any other kind of four-wheeler, of their own, to go to a store to buy food or whatever. (This counts the households, not the cars; the middle- and upper-income households that have multiple cars are only counted once.)

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And yet, the government’s lockdown allows private cars on the streets, but not public-use-type motor vehicles. If it is argued that a

car is only allowed one or two passengers, to limit the number of people that go outside their homes, then so, too, could jeepneys be told to take only one-half, or one-fourth, of their passenger capacity, rather than be completely shut down, at zero. Given the COVID-19 crisis, the people’s demand for jeepney transport would be very low anyway, perhaps one-half, or even one-fourth, of normal.

Motorcycle ownership is slightly more democratic: 23 percent of households in NCR, 32 percent in BL. Tricycle ownership, i.e., of a motorcycle plus sidecar, is 3 percent in NCR, and a relatively large 20 percent in BL.

The number of households without their own motorized means to leave their homes to buy food and other basics is about 2.3 million in NCR, and 5.3 million in BL. They must walk, or use a bicycle. (SWS has not been monitoring bicycle ownership; it seems we should start now.) There is a high risk of hunger in Metro Manila. In 2010-19, the area with the highest average quarterly percentage of hungry households was NCR in five of the years (2010, 2013, 2015, 2018 and 2019), Balance Luzon in three years (2011, 2014 and 2017), Visayas in 2016 only, and Mindanao in 2012 only.

The most recent hunger peak was in 2013, when an average 23.5 percent of households in NCR experienced hunger (for all the past data, see “Fourth Quarter 2019 Social Weather Survey: Quarterly Hunger decreases to 8.8%,” www.sws.org.ph, 1/24/20).

I must emphasize that the NCR very often has the highest rate of hunger, even though it always has the lowest incidence of poverty, however measured. The reason, I think, is because there is no land left for agriculture by the poor in Metro Manila, compared to the poor in other areas.

Although the latest (December 2019, pre-COVID-19) rate of severe hunger in NCR was a relatively low 2 percent, it has gone as high as 7 percent many times, and could easily reach that point again. Severe hunger means experiencing it often or always in the last three months. A five-point swing is potentially 160,000 more households (not individuals) suffering severe hunger, in NCR alone, when basic public transport vanishes.

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TAGS: COVID-19 crisis, Jeepneys, National Capital Region, tricycles
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