In a press conference held at the Quezon Hall of University of the Philippines Diliman, various transport groups unite and reiterated the call to junk government’s Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program.
“Hirap na hirap na kaming mga jeepney driver dahil sa pandemyang ito, lalung-laluna sa ginawa ng gubyerno ni Duterte dahil kami ang huling binigyan ng hanapbuhay, at hindi pa lahat ay pinalabas ang jeep. 50 % pa lang ang pinalalabas niyang sasakyan na pampasada,” said Nolan Grulla of UP Transport Group.
The PUV Modernization Program was launched as early as 2017 by the Department of Transportation. It was met by staunch resistance by transport groups nationwide as it would mean death to jeepney drivers and operators.
From 2017 to 2019, jeepney strikes were spearheaded by progressive groups to oppose the phaseout of jeepneys.
However, the Coronavirus pandemic provided the perfect backdrop for government to continue the modernization program. Public transportation was halted and jeepney drivers were amongst the hardest hit by the lockdown. Many jeepney drivers turned to begging for alms just to survive.
Last September 2020, The LTFRB opened jeepney routes but many others were left behind
The UP Jeepney drivers were allowed to ply their routes but their livelihood is severely hampered by the government’s policies.
“Binigyan nga kami ng byahe rito pero pinayagan ng special permit ang mga bus na dumadaan ng Katipunan papuntang SM North. Ang Quezon City [government] naman nagbigay ng libreng sakay na dumadaan sa biyahe naming,” lamented Nolan Grulla.
“Ito ay malaking dagok sa hanay ng transport sapagkat mayroon itong domino effect,” said Danilo Magallanes of Pinag-isang Samahang Driver Operator Pasig-Pateros-Marikina or PISDOPAMMA
“Kung kami ay aalisin sa kalsada, papaano na ang mga umaasa sa amin?,” added Magallanes.
Magallanes explained informal workers such as barkers and vendors will also be affected by the jeepney phaseout as their livelihood is also interconnected with the jeepney sector.
No to Phaseout, Yes to Modernization
Efren De Luna of ACTO (Alliance of Concerned Transport Organization) clarified that jeepney modernization should not be made at the expense of jeepney drivers and operators.
“Kami ay hindi tumutol sa modernization pero huwag kaming diktahan kung saan kami bibili ng sasakyan,” said De Luna.
According to De Luna, the evolution of the jeepney itself is the product of modernization. He explained that the jeepney was an innovation of Filipinos to fill the need for an effective mass transport system.. The jeeps were originally surplus vehicles after World War 2. Filipinos modified these to accommodate more passengers as the transportation infrastructure expanded in the metropolis.. However, this is all about to change with the influx of E-Jeeps.
Under the jeepney modernization, the vehicles to be used are exorbitantly priced, costing up to P1.9M to P2.4M each.
“Ang PUV Modernization ay hindi mapupunta sa benefit ng taumbayan, hindi benefit ng mga pasahero, hindi benefit ng mga driver at operator kundi benefit ng mga negosyanteng kapitalista dahil sila ang nagtitinda ng mga sasakyan at kakunstaba ang DOTr at LTRFB,” exclaimed Efren De Luna.
Youth in solidarity with drivers
Engels Caballero of SIKHAY, a progressive youth organization based in Marikina, said that the jeepney transport sector is a public service.
“Ginagawang negosyo ang serbisyong bayan, hindi naiiba sa edukasyon,” said Caballero.
He added that students and jeepney drivers both suffer from government neglect.
Clara Senga of League of Filipino Students encouraged the youth to unite with jeepney drivers.
“Malawak ang hanay natin bilang mga kabataan kaya’t dapat lamang na matipon ang bawat indibidwal at samahan na determinadong lumaban sa jeepney phaseout,” said Senga.
On February 01, 2021, progressive groups will be holding a protest caravan against the Jeepney phaseout