Last April 30, Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año said that public utility vehicles will be allowed to ply the roads once General Community Quarantine (GCQ) is set in place. Two weeks have passed since and most of the country is now under GCQ, with some buses and taxicabs back on the road.

However, Año specifically said that traditional jeepneys will not be allowed to take in fares during GCQ. This is due to the seating configuration of these vehicles that make it not possible to follow social distancing guidelines. In traditional jeepneys, passengers sit face to face with each other within a confined space. Another issue raised by Año is the ingress and egress of commuters, which forces them to come in close contact with other people.

Months after that initial statement by Año, it seems that jeepneys might be allowed back on the road, but only under special circumstances. This comes after clamor from some jeepney operators to resume their business, with many drivers out of work due to the current pandemic. Goddess Hope Libiran, Assistant Secretary for the Department of Transport (DOTr), said that pre-modern PUVs may operate under strict guidelines.

Pre-PUVMP (Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program) jeepneys must first obtain a permit to be able to drive around during GCQ. These vehicles must also be roadworthy, and operators must comply with health, safety, sanitation, and security protocols set by the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF).

That means these vehicles are subject to the same rules as other vehicles such as buses and modern PUVs. Drivers must always wear a mask and a pair of gloves at all times, the jeepney must be disinfected regularly, and it shall not exceed 50 percent of its capacity. Passengers are also required to wear a mask at all times.

But just because the DOTr is giving some leeway to pre-PUVMP jeepneys, it doesn't mean that most will can get back on the road. The DOTr says they'll only allow it if modern PUVs and buses cannot accommodate the passenger demand in a certain area. So if a certain area has limited units of buses and modern PUVs available, that's the only time these older jeepneys will be allowed to pick up passengers.

As for the PUVMP, it will still push through despite the pandemic. The government is aiming for a majority of older jeepneys being phased out before the year ends.