Jeepney drivers, operators stage rally at Senate

Cecille Suerte Felipe - The Philippine Star
Jeepney drivers, operators stage rally at Senate
Jeepneys operate along their route along Quezon Boulevard in Manila on June 17, 2024.
Ryan Baldemor / The Philippine STAR

MANILA, Philippines — Hundreds of jeepney drivers and operators held a rally in front of the Senate to continue protesting the public utility vehicles modernization program (PUVMP), which they claimed was “killing them softly.”

The mass action coincided with the public hearing of the Senate committee on public services chaired by Sen. Raffy Tulfo to determine the status of the implementation of the program.

During the hearing, Tulfo asked officials from the Department of Transportation (DOTr) what they were doing as he agreed with the transport groups that when the drivers failed to ply their route, their families would go hungry.

Tulfo also reiterated questions on the P2.4 million per unit cost of the minibus, which would replace the traditional jeepneys.

“Prioritize the proper system first before you implement a deadline,” Tulfo told DOTr.

Undersecretary for Road Transport and Infrastructure Jesus Ferdinand Ortega said the deadline on the consolidation would be in 2026 and maintained that the DOTr and the Land Transportation and Franchising Regulatory Board (LTFRB) have nothing to do with the supply of the modernized jeepneys.

He also said 81 percent of drivers and operators have already registered and there was 19 percent who were really opposed to the program.

Sen. Grace Poe said the DOTr also promised to approve 50 percent of Local Public Transport Route Plans (LPTRPs) by June 30, 2024.

“However, as of last May, only 11 percent or 174 LPTRPs have been approved. Only 19 or a mere 1.5 percent increase from the 9.5 percent or 155 approved LPTRPs in 2023. What kind of road transport modernization is the route not finished?”

“First, the DOTr should prioritize the completion of the route plans before reducing the PUV units,” she said. “Second, the department should also provide proper management, accounting and human resources training, including effective grievance mechanisms, for transport entities.”

At the hearing, Manibela chairman Mar Valbuena said the immediate concern is that driver colleagues would not be able to travel as the government threatened to arrest those who would not be able to register their vehicles.

Valbuena said they were told to “fight for our rights in the West Philippine Sea but the government itself is killing us, removing us from the streets and they will even support foreigners who will be the suppliers of vehicles. We are patronizing their business but they are killing us. That’s why we protested, one day when we couldn’t travel, it was hand to mouth. If you don’t travel, you will have no income, just like today.”

Valbuena clarified that they are not opposing government modernization programs but there are other ways to do that.

“There are many ways that we can modernize. We can show that, we are not against modernization, we have built many iconic jeepneys that followed the modernized design and requirements. We can even show the iconic Philippine jeepneys all over the world. We can do it at a cheaper cost. We have followed the Philippine standard, we have maintained the iconic look and most of all, cheap and not compromised safety,” Valbuena added.

Tulfo also asked DOTr officials what would happen to the 19 percent of jeepney drivers and operators who opposed the consolidation as mandated by the modernization programs.

Ortega said the consolidation was over, which means for now all those who did not consolidate can no longer consolidate.

“Instead, they will be given social support from DOLE (Department of Labor and Employment) for ‘entsupreneur’ and TESDA (Technical Education and Skills Development Authority) for ‘tsuperscholar’,” Ortega added.

“For entsupreneur, there will be livelihood worth P30,000 funds for loading stations, bakery and learn other possible business,” Ortega added.

But Tulfo said the drivers were laughing, as they are not used to baking but steering wheels.

Ortega said, “The jeepney drivers and operators were given the chance to continue to work as drivers, it’s their decision.”

He noted that many former jeepney drivers and operators are availing of the entsupreneurship and tsuperscholar.

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