Gov't eyes giving cash aid, work as contract tracers to idle jeepney drivers

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 4) — The national government is looking at a number of options to help thousands of jeepney drivers left without income for months because of public transportation restrictions during the community quarantine.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque on Thursday said the drivers will be included in the third tranche of cash assistance, where families severely affected by the COVID-19 crisis are given P5,000 to P8,000. There is no clear timetable when the third tranche will be paid out as the second tranche of the Social Amelioration Program has yet to be released to four million beneficiaries.

He also said drivers may be given temporary jobs as contact tracers while jeepneys are still banned in general community quarantine areas such as Metro Manila.

"Hinahanda na po ang pangatlong buwan ng ayuda para sa mga jeepney drivers at inaayos na po ang posibleng hanapbuhay sa kanila bilang contact tracers," he said in a media briefing in Davao City.

[Translation: We are already preparing the third tranche for jeepney drivers and we are working on possibly giving them work as contact tracers.]

The country seeks to hire 95,000 more contact tracers in a bid to contain the virus spread.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III earlier proposed to hire laborers displaced by the two-month lockdown as contact tracers. Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, however, noted that there are certain communication skills as well as technology literacy for the job, which entails getting in touch with family, friends, and other people who had close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 patient.

"The qualifications mentioned before for contact tracers were recommendations from DOH based on the tasks that contact tracers are assigned to do. Since DILG is the lead agency, it will be for discussion how we will reconcile these qualifications and how we can discuss the tasks based from the recommendations coming from OP," Health Spokesperson Ma. Rosario Vergeire said in a message to reporters. 

On Wednesday, six jeepney drivers were arrested for protesting against restrictions on their livelihood. Police said they disobeyed rules against social distancing and mass gathering.