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Comeback of PUJs in Cebu City

The Cebu City government has decided to resume jeepney operations which were suspended last April due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Jeepney in the Philippines
Source: Gary Arndt | Pinterest

The streets of Cebu City have not seen a single jeepney since April. There are noticeably less pedestrians out and about as well. Despite that, traffic congestion remains to be an issue since more and more private vehicles have gone on to the motorways, and this development has somehow retained the usual busy hours of the city roads. 

With the comeback of public utility vehicles (PUJs), it remains to be seen on whether or not the lingering traffic issue will suffer from further aggravation. Company-provided shuttles will soon be put out of commission, and terminals will once again be filled with long passenger queues.

The return of PUJs in the streets

1,720 out of 5,044 traditional PUJs will be allowed to operate soon in Cebu City. As per Mayor Edgardo Labella’s announcement on October 27, 2020, the city’s 18 routes will be opened for PUJs after a feasibility study submitted by the city task force proved the prospect practicable.

The mayor also added that this is the first phase of the gradual return of the jeepneys concomitant with the slow transition of the city to the ‘new normal’.

Spokesperson and Director Eduardo Montealto Jr. of Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB-7) said that only a certain number of traditional PUJs can resume operating because there is not going to be a lot of passengers considering the limited workforce and absence of actual classes in schools. He also clarified that the routes do not include those from outside Cebu City.

The process

The selected routes and the city plans, which are subject to modifications, were the basis for greenlighting the jeepneys given permit to resume operations. They were selected by the committee led by Councilor James Cuenco who imposed a set of requirements on qualified drivers. Said requirements include documents like licenses, health clearances, and certification of operation.

The selected drivers will be assessed by the Land Transportation Office (LTO) at the city hall to see if they are under fire for traffic violations from last year. After which they will be required to prove their understanding of the traffic regulations by taking a driver’s exam.

They would also have to undergo a rapid antigen-antibody test and swab test as part of the COVID-19 safety protocols.

How it will be for commuters

The jeepney units might have to go through some light retrofitting to adjust to the demands of the safety protocols and the surge of passengers who are eager to have their affordable means of transportation back.

According to the new regulations, there should be a one-meter distance between passengers. Plastic shields would also have to be placed within the jeep to minimize physical contact and risk of infection.

The city government is keen on keeping the risk of resurgence to a minimum. There will be disinfection stops in all routes which will be strictly monitored. A no face mask and shield, no ride policy will also be put in place for all forms of public transportation. 

Bottom line

The easing of restrictions is definitely a breath of fresh air to Cebuanos who are among those that have been hit the hardest by the pandemic. There will definitely be a flock of passengers willing to squeeze their way in these jeepneys as a sense of normalcy is slowly descending upon the city.

However, as far as vaccine developments and ongoing positive cases are concerned, we are not entirely in the clear yet. We should still remain cautious and limit the need for public transportation and access to public spaces if it can be helped.

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