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By:  the Inquirer Bureaus 

More than 7,000 bus drivers and conductors, including ticket inspectors, may lose their jobs as the coronavirus pandemic forces drastic changes in mass transportation, such as the shift to cashless transaction.

As the government eases quarantine protocols, more bus companies are poised to resume operations this month but only at half of their normal passenger capacities to maintain physical distancing onboard and with shorter routes.

In Cavite province, 46 of 100 buses of Jasper Jean Bus Liner have resumed daily trips after nearly three months of lockdown, according to its president, Edwin Costes.

The company, however, operates on a limited scope as it has to follow a new route from Dasmariñas City in Cavite to the Parañaque Integrated Terminal Exchange. The new route is only half of its previous one that extended up to Navotas City in Metro Manila, Costes said.

Cashless

Under the route rationalization in preparation for mass transport resumption in Metro Manila on June 22, provincial buses from northern Luzon will be allowed only up to the Philippine Arena complex in Bocaue, Bulacan province, while those from the south will be allowed only up to Santa Rosa City in Laguna province.

Costes said his company was observing the “one-seat-apart” scheme, along with other safety measures like regularly disinfecting buses, wearing face masks for the driver, conductor and passengers, and using thermal scanners.

Fare is collected at the terminal, but the government prefers bus companies to later install the automatic fare collection system (AFCS), “to minimize, if not avoid the risk of exposure” to the virus, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) said in its memorandum circular issued on May 14.

The AFCS, likened to reloadable beep cards used in Metro Manila’s railways, will likely replace bus conductors and ticket inspectors.With only about 4,600 buses in Metro Manila alone, some 7,000 employees may lose their jobs, according to Costes and Homer Mercado, owner of HM Transport Inc.

The full report in today’s issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer