By JOSE SANTOS
MANILA – Marcial Ejan has been plying the Katipunan Avenue – UP Diliman route for the past years. Like most of his fellow jeepney drivers, he works from dawn to dusk to make ends meet.
However, he and thousands of jeepney drivers and small operators are facing their biggest threat yet.
Under the Philippine government’s Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program, jeepney drivers may be buried with around P2.8 million in debt to be able to afford the so-called modern jeepneys.
They recently launched a transport strike that compelled the Marcos Jr. administration to use the consolidation’s extended deadline until the end of the year to study provisions under the Omnibus Franchising Guidelines, which critics have long been assailing for neglecting their woes.
Under the modernization program, the Philippine government is eyeing a “one-route one-franchise policy” to supposedly pursue “an efficient and environment-friendly road-based transport sector.”
Read: Jeepney modernization’s rushed timeline neglects drivers’ woes
“We cannot afford the modern jeepneys. It is too expensive. If ever, they may only be a few drivers and operators who can. But it is a small percentage among our ranks,” Ejan told Bulatlat.
As it stands, jeepney drivers pay between P1,200 to P1,500 daily boundary to their operators. Meanwhile, initial studies on the daily cost of operating a modern jeepney is somewhere between P2,100 to P2,400. This covers charging, the minimum salary for drivers and conductor, and amortization.
As such, transitioning to modernized jeepneys may also increase fares for ordinary folk.
Roel Flores, 37, a jeepney operator and driver from the Blumentritt-Baclaran route, challenged the Marcos Jr. administration to junk the order that supposedly modernizes the jeepney.
As of now, jeepneys have returned to the streets of the Philippine capital. But all eyes are still on how the Marcos Jr. administration will proceed from the dialogue held with transport leaders. (JJE, RTS, CAM)