UP jeepney drivers still have a lot of worry about despite getting back to their livelihood after more than six months. The lack of passengers is just one of them.
On October 31, jeepney drivers plying routes in the University of the Philippines Diliman campus in Quezon City were allowed to resume operations. Their operations were halted since early March due to the lockdown and quarantine enforced by the national government due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Limited passenger capacity is enforced as part of health and safety protocols during the pandemic.
UP IKOT Drivers and Operators Association Auditor Nelson Ramos explained that their vehicles have to undergo inspection and registration from the UP administration and LTFRB, respectively.
“Sa UP, bago ka bumiyahe eh kailangan ipainspeksyon ‘yong jeep sa hq para makita nila sa protocols kung maayos, kung nakarehistro. Ngayon, kung okay naman na ay papayagan ka nang bumiyahe,” said Ramos.
Among the 56 UP drivers, Ramos is the earliest jeepney driver who passed the necessary requirements which then allowed him to operate. However, he only had a single passenger from the four rounds of his travel since 7:00 am of November 3.
“Na-pick up ko iyon sa UP Town at bumaba ng Krus na Ligas, ‘yon lang ang naisakay ko mula kaninang umaga alas-syete. Hindi na nadagdagan ‘yong pasahero ko,” Ramos shared.
UP IKOT Drivers and Operators Association Vice President Apolinario Domingo deemed that advertisements to inform the communities within the UP about the balik-pasada may be inadequate.
Domingo said the barangay officials hoped for the return of UP jeepneys saying that the residents were clamoring over the cost of tricycle fare.
“Kulang sa advertisement na magsasabing mayroon nang biyahe sa UP. ‘Yong iba naman ay natatakot pa ring lumabas,” Domingo added.
“Palibhasa ngayon palang nagsimula ang biyahe naming kaya hindi pa nila alam. Pero marami na ring nagtatanong kung may biyahe na,” Ramos seconded.
Jeepney route changes
Jeepney route changes were also implemented inside the university.
According to the website report from UP Diliman, UP jeepneys will traverse the following routes:
- The UP Ikot will now run clockwise from the Jacinto Portal beside the Centennial Dormitory, which it will traverse across the University Avenue to turn right at Magsaysay Ave, then turn left at Roces St., then right to Laurel St. It will turn right into Ma. Guerrero St. and then again into Magsaysay Avenue to reach the Magsaysay Portal to enter Katipunan Ave., where it will travel before turning right into CP Garcia Ave.
- The UP-Katipunan route will start at Katipunan corner Aurora Boulevard to UP Diliman, U-turn at the slot in front of Magsaysay Portal, then proceed along Katipunan Ave. before turning right along CP Garcia Ave all the way to the corner of University Ave, then left at Jacinto St., right along Magysaysay Ave. left at Roces St., then right at Laurel St., then right at Ma. Guerrero St., left at Magsaysay Ave. going to Katipunan Ave. to return to Aurora Blvd.
- The UP-Philcoa route will go from Balara/Katipunan Ave., right to CP Garcia Ave., left to Magiting St., right to Maginhawa St., right to Masaya St., right to enter the University Ave. It will then turn left into Jacinto St., right to Magsaysay Ave., left at Roces St., right to Laurel St., right to Ma. Guerrero St., left to Magsaysay Ave. exiting the Magsaysay Portal and right back to Katipunan Ave.
- Jeeps plying the UP-SM North, UP-Pantranco and TOKI routes will temporarily ply their old routes until such time that the LTFRB issues new ones.
Domingo said they are now only allowed to pass through the residential areas. He said that IKOT drivers before were traversing a counter-clockwise route.
“Sa residential area lang kami dadaan, wala kaming dadanan dito sa academic oval,” Domingo said.
[We can only navigate along the residential area, we cannot go across the academic oval]
Alternative livelihood during lockdown
Jeepney driver Ruben Arante who plied along UP-Pantranco route relayed how he applied as a construction worker when Metro Manila was put into a wide lockdown last March 15.
“Nung naglockdown na ay huminto na kami at ako nag-construction para matustusan ko rin yong pamilya ko sa pang-araw-araw namin, syempre pambiling ulam, pambayad ilaw at tubig,” Arante shared.
“Sa construction, ang sweldo ko araw-araw ay P537. Syempre gastos ko pa rin sa araw-araw, kulang pa rin,” he added.
The above-mentioned drivers affirmed that it was them who purchased all requirements needed for health and safety protocols such as the protective barrier upon the observance of physical distancing among passengers despite not having enough budget for daily expenses.
In fact, Arante said that it took him P1,500 to refurbish the passenger seats.
Jeepney drivers continue seeking alms
While there have been jeepney drivers awaiting only for the approval of university and LTFRB, there are also those who remained on the streets begging for alms.
Along the roads of Carlos P Garcia Ave. were a group of jeepney drivers carrying placards while holding an empty can to collect some coins or monetary aid. Their placards bear messages such as “Ma’am Sir, Konting Tulong Lang Po Sa Mga Jeepney Driver!” and “Sana Ibalik Kaming Muli Sa Pamamasada,” among other demands.
“Noong nagbigay sila ng biyahe ng ruta, hindi nakasama ang ruta naming kaya naisip naming mamalimos,” explained Samahang Tsuper at Operator ng Daang Tubo UP Campus (STODTUPA) President Roger Lagundi.
“‘Yong mga nalilikom namin dito, pagdating sa hapon ay pinaghahati namin para makabili ng ulam, bigas. Minsan tig-70 kami o 80,” he added.
Currently, the group has 35 active members.
“Noon 55, ngayon 35 nalang. ‘Yong iba kasi nagkaroon na ng trabaho, naging service driver, pahinante,” Lagundi shared.
Lagundi further stressed that it was only the modernized jeepneys which were allowed to ply along their designated route.
The group also lamented they cannot afford to purchase the necessary materials in order to keep up with the health protocols.
“‘Yong pangangailangan namin sa araw-araw, iyon ang hindi namin matugunan. At isa pa, ‘yong pangangailangan ng anak namin na nag-aaral sa online tulad ng wifi, gadget,” Lagundi further lamented.
No aid from government
The drivers lamented how they many of them did not receive any aid from the government.
“Umaasa lang kami sa ayuda, pero marami namang nagbibigay na mga estudyante, propesor. Sa DSWD, wala. Hindi kami nakakuha. Sa mga NGO lang talaga kami nakakuha,” Domingo further lamented.
Lagundi shared that he has yet to receive the second tranche from the Social Amelioration Program (SAP) by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
“May kulang pa nga ako sa pambayad ng kuryente, sa totoo niyan naputulan na kami ng kuryente. Iyon ang mga problema namin, ang mga pangangailangan na obligasyon naming kailangan bayaran,” he added.
Looming PUV modernization, jeepney phaseout
Department of Transportation (DOTr) has long been urging for the Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP), which jeepney drivers group like PISTON also called ‘jeepney phaseout. PISTON protested that the phaseout is implemented along with the forced stoppage of jeepney operations as part of the lockdown.
Transport Assistant Secretary Goddess Hope Libiran earlier said that traditional jeepneys would be allowed, only that it should follow the “hierarchy of modes of transportation” giving priority to buses and modern PUVs. Traditional jeepneys are at the bottom of the said hierarchy.
Buses were seen to have been deployed in the routes of traditional jeepneys, especially those traversing more than four kilometers. More modernized jeepneys – those small bus looking types – have also started to ply the smaller roads. But these may not be enough as government sought to allow traditional jeepneys to resume operations as well.
More and more routes have been opened since the government’s move to reopen the economy since June without the jeepneys proved too grueling for commuters—workers and employees who have then returned to work. However, around 70% of traditional jeepney routes and units were still not allowed to operate.
In an interview of Manila Bulletin to DOTr Senior Consultant Alberto Suansing, he said that phaseout of jeepneys would push through this year.
“It is true that there is a plan to phase out jeepneys and they knew it will come because since 2017, we have been talking with the jeepney operators and their leaders,” Suansing said.
However, he asserted that old jeepneys would still have the chance to operate this year as the deadline for them to consolidate their franchise has been extended until December.
This marks the end of the supposed three-year transition period of the program which began in June 2017 to replace old with modernized PUVs. Such vehicles are said to be powered by clean electric engines and supported with safety features along with the automated fare collection system.
Meanwhile, among the transport protesters was the STODTUPA.
The group lambasted the PUV modernization as curtailment of their source of living, also during the time their sector is struggling with economic impacts of the pandemic.
“Ibasura na nila ‘yong jeepney phaseout. Nanggaling kami sa tradisyunal na jeep, ‘yong mga sasakyan namin e hinuhulugan pa. ‘Di na nga namin mahulugan tapos ipe-phaseout pa,” said Lagundi.