VICE President Leni Robredo has lent her support to several public transport organizations calling for more protection of their livelihood against the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the push to phaseout traditional public vehicles.
Leaders of organizations of jeepney drivers and operators together with UV Express groups in Central Luzon met with the Vice President during her regular Sunday radio program over RMN-DZXL to air their concerns about the potential loss of their livelihood.
Dan Yumul, president of the Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Tutol Sa Phase Out (Stop) and the Confederation of Passenger Transport of Central Luzon, said less than 40 percent of over 200,000 jeepney drivers nationwide have been allowed to resume their livelihood.
“Sa kabila po ng pandemya nakikita natin halos wala pong masakyan iyong mga nagbabalik na manggagawa. Iyong mga drayber natin na nakikita natin halos nanlilimos nalang.
Nakikita rin natin iyong mga commuters na talagang hindi naman kayang i-avail iyong mga mode of transport na napakamahal. Tapos halos 40 percent lang ang nakakapagbalik-kalsada sa amin magmula noong March (In the middle of this pandemic, ordinary wage earners are finding it hard to commute while our fellow drivers have been reduced to begging on the street so they can feed their family. Since March, less than 40 percent of have been allowed to work),” Yumul told the Vice President
Yumul clarified that drivers support the modernization of the country’s transport system but the realities on the ground require a reevaluation of the timetable to allow jeepney drivers and their families to adjust.
He likewise lamented the policy of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) that placed the traditional Pinoy jeepney at the end of the list of public transports that were permitted to resume operations.
“Iyong dating ruta namin binigay po sa iba na wala naman sa eksena dati. Ang ginawa nilang panggigipit kung wala kang special permit, sa NCR QR code po ang tawag, hindi ka makakabiyahe. Kung bibigyan ka man, putol-putol pa ang ruta mo. Halimbawa po Marikina, Stop&Shop, hanggang Cubao ka nalang. Binigay sa mga bus company na bagong prangkisa (Our former routes were given to others. As an additional burden, we are required to secure a special permit in the form of a QR code, if you don’t have one you can ferry passengers. For example, for Marikina-Stop & Shop, we are not allowed beyond Cubao. A bus company took over with a new franchise),” he added.
He pointed out that the drivers and operators paid their route franchise in full but the new policy is barring them from using it.
United Transport Alliance of the Philippines president Exequiel Longares also questioned the rule of hierarchy which relegated UV Express and traditional jeepneys at the tail end of the list.
“Inuna pa nila iyong mayayaman, iyong malalaking bus company kaysa sa aming mahihirap. Gutom na gutom na po talaga itong mga driver. Wala pong magawa kung hindi po sumunod na lang po (This policy gave priority to the rich owners of bus companies while abandoning us poor drivers and operators to starve with our families),” he said.
Ricardo Turla of the Bulacan Federation of Jeepney Operators and Drivers Association (BFJODA) said out of the initial 90 units of modern jeepneys that were allowed to ply the routes in San Jose del Monte City, only six remain operational.
Robredo promised to assist the transport sector in getting their concerns heard by the relevant agencies.
“Sabi ninyo hindi naman talaga kayo tutol sa modernisasyon. Ang sinasabi niyo lang, kung gagawin ito bigyan naman kayo ng sapat na panahon at siguraduhin na kakayanin ninyo ang mga requirements na hinihingi sa inyo. Kasi sobrang mahal na mahihirapan kayong kayanin. Pero noong nagpandemya parang nadoble pa lalo ang problema (You said you are not totally opposed to modernization…but you are only hoping for leniency and more time since it will be a costly move. Now with the pandemic, the problem has become two-fold),” she noted.
Robredo said the government must also look into complaints that some individuals or groups have profited by taking over the legitimate route applied and paid for by the jeepney and UV Express drivers and operators.
“These drivers are complying with the rules. They applied for and got their franchise approved for their routes but these are now being grabbed by others just because they can afford the modern units. This is what I fear… that those who have the means will be given preference,” Robredo said.