By JONAS ALPASAN
With reports from Aira Marie Siguenza, Marc Rechelle Buntag, Max Santiago, Marya Salamat, Menchani Tilendo
MANILA – Jeepney drivers held a transport strike today as the Philippine government continues its plan to phase out not only a cultural icon in the country but the most common and affordable means of transportation for ordinary folk.
“The fight of drivers and small operators also belongs to the people. Without a franchise, operators will lose their livelihoods. Drivers will have no jeepneys to use. Millions will have to endure the lack of access to affordable transportation,” said the No to PUV Phaseout Coalition.
Of late, the Philippine government has been adamant about the phase out of jeepneys. It has recently moved its deadline for traditional jeepneys and operators to consolidate into a cooperative or corporation from June 30 to Dec. 31 this year.
The announcement came following the intensified calls of jeepney drivers and their supporters to stop the supposed modernization program, saying that the apparently rushed timeline of implementing this ignores their woes.
Read: Jeepney modernization’s rushed timeline neglects drivers’ woes
Read: Jeepneys’ just energy transition bogged down by lack of support
As of 6 p.m. today, Piston said the transport strike was able to paralyze several routes in Metro Manila, including Cubao-San Juan, Cubao-Divisoria, Marikina-Parang, Sangandaan-Pajo-Divisoria, and neighboring provinces such as the routes of Malolos-San Fernando and Calumpit-Meycauayan in Bulacan and in Molino, Cavite.
Jeepney drivers are up in arms over the government’s transport modernization program. Transport strike begins today. Follow our updates.
Editorial cartoon by Ace Labalan / Bulatlat pic.twitter.com/M4XudId7PO
— Bulatlat (@bulatlat) March 6, 2023
“It is just to protest, especially if it involves being deprived of one’s livelihood. Through the transport strike, drivers and operators sacrifice what they can earn for the day for the bigger national interest,” the No to PUV Phaseout Coalition added.
According to the No to PUV Phaseout Coalition, the proposed modernization of the jeepney may increase the cost of a minimum fare to as much as P35 to P40 per trip. Meanwhile, initial studies on the cost of operating a modern jeepney are as much as P2,400 ($43) a day.
Anakpawis Partylist, on the other hand, said the jeepney phaseout can eventually affect the transfer of agricultural goods in the provinces.
“For us, the government only wants to make this mass transport sector profit-oriented. There are about 220,000 jeepneys that may be affected in the entire country,” said Ariel Casilao, president of Anakpawis Partylist and former lawmaker.
Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas also expressed their support to the jeepney drivers, saying that they “share a common interest in promoting local production and development, and in resisting corporate control of social services, and import dependence.”
“The jeepney is not just a mode of transportation for millions of Filipinos, including farmers and farm workers, but also a cultural icon and symbol of community and resilience,” the KMP said.
Move to a greener society?
Environmental group Kalikasan belied the claim that the purchase of more expensive vehicles that will replace the traditional jeepneys will automatically provide a safer and better environment.”
“This runs counter to the basic tenets of a just transition – that people’s welfare is secured and prioritized in our move towards a greener society,” said Jon Bonifacio, national coordinator of Kalikasan.
Bonifacio said that Marcos Jr.’s predecessor initially attempted the jeepney phase out discourse as a “climate solution.”
“Ultimately, the roots of our urban transport crisis lie in the widespread poverty and lack of opportunities in the countryside, linked to continuing landlessness. This has resulted over the years in a mass migration to urban areas and their peripheries, leading to congestion, unsafe housing, waste accumulation, and so on. Tackling this issue head-on means resolving the systemic issues that have led to the gross inequality we see today,” he said.
In a statement, the Kilusan ng Manggagawang Kababaihan also assailed the proposed jeepney phaseout, saying that depriving thousands of Filipinos of their livelihoods does not sit well with women workers as the country continues to reel from the impacts of the high inflation.
“Worse, the government is opting to surrender individual franchises of small operators to big companies that will be owned by business conglomerates like the Ayala and the Sy family,” said Jacq Ruiz of KMK.
This is a sentiment that the No to PUV Phaseout Coalition shared as it called out the Marcos Jr. administration, saying that amid joblessness and increasing prices of staple goods and services, “the government is prioritizing anti-people policies and the interests of big, foreign corporations.”
They added, “we reiterate that moves to modernize public transportation should be anchored on improving the local industry, rehabilitating old jeepneys instead of phasing it out, and the selling of these mini-buses, where only foreign businesses will earn.” (RVO)