Various jeepney operators and groups gathered for a protest against the government’s public utility vehicle (PUV) modernization program last July 17 at various places in the country such as Metro Manila, Pampanga, and Zambales, among others. Some of the transport groups involved were PISTON Partylist, United Transportation Federation of Makati (UTFM), Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), and Manilakabayan who each had representatives to speak out and make their stand.
The protest seeks to demolish the plan of the government to modernize the current jeepneys, which may affect more than 60,000 jeepney drivers in the National Capital Region. While the program is noted as a modernization plan, many strongly believe that it is as good as a total phase-out of the current jeepney industry.
Slammed government’s PUV modernization program
The modernization program is phasing out all the jeepneys because the government will be releasing new designs and models that they plan to get from China in replacement of the local jeeps.
Each franchise only gets one loan for one vehicle, and the loan will only be from an approved private bank with the government’s recommendation. One modernized jeepney is estimated to cost at least P1 million, and each loan will be payable in seven years.
To help the drivers and operators, the government plans to allot roughly P80,000 per franchise in order to pay off the debt. In addition, the government is pushing for the removal of the boundary system. The boundary system is an agreement between a driver and his or her respective operator about the splitting of earnings.
Additional provisions for this program include shorter time for franchise renewal, stricter rules and qualifications on franchise ownership, and faster rotation and pulling out of jeepneys aged 10 to 15 years old.
Leo Hernandez, a jeepney driver and leader of UTFM, thinks that this is wrong, and that it will only affect their jobs. He argues that there is no need for imports as they will just increase the overall spending of the people, and that the government can just focus their attention on the betterment of the current vehicles.
Hernandez also states that there is no need for a complete replacement of all jeepneys, because some only need rehabilitation and are still in working and safe conditions.
Misunderstanding on the consultation
Hernandez says that he, along with his fellow operators and drivers, are not entirely against the idea of modernizing the current jeepneys. Although he sees the benefits of improving the current jeepneys, he insists that those in power change their views about the matter, and consider the views of the masses as well.
“Dapat may proper consultation,” Hernandez stresses. “300 daw ang nagpunta para sa consultation dati pero sapat na ba yun para mag-represent sa amin? Ang dami-daming sasakyan at mga driver. Kung sapat ‘yun, e ‘di dapat walang protesta ngayon.”
(There should be proper consultation. It was said that 300 went for a consultation then, but is that enough to represent us? There are a lot of vehicles and drivers. If it were enough, then there won’t be any protest today.)
He adds, “Hindi ito personalan, at hindi ko inaatake ang gobyerno. Gusto ko lang, namin, na gumanda ang buhay naming lahat, natin lahat, at buhay ng kinabukasan.”
(This is nothing personal, and I am not attacking the government. All I want–we want–is for our lives to be better, all of our lives, and the life in the future.)
Reaching out to the president
Throughout the protest, drivers and operators did not miss the chance to voice out their petitions and need for support from the president. The protest was initially held to urge President Duterte to stop the government’s PUV modernization program. They purposely carried out the protest in Mendiola because the area is closer to Malacañang Palace.
Speakers brought up the increase of Duterte’s net worth by P3 million and are asking him to give out the money he acquired in assistance of those who are need. The people also reached out to the media, asking them to disclose this information and convey the message to the president.
Prior to the protest last July 17, another nationwide protest was held last February 27 which tackled the same PUV modernization program. The leaders of the transport groups have reiterated that if the government does not heed their complaints, more protests may be staged in the future.