Jeepney drivers hold nationwide protest vs jeepney phaseout

No to Jeepney Phaseout coalition
No To Jeepney Phaseout coalition marching to Mendiola April 18 (Contributed Photo)

Read also: Drivers vow zero votes to LP, Mar Roxas

So far, only two new jeepney units have been delivered in an approved fleet management group. Its machines overheated and conked out in less than one month.

By MARYA SALAMAT
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – The country’s biggest coalition of transport groups opposed to the government’s planned phaseout of jeepneys held protests this Monday, April 18.

The No To Jeepney Phaseout Coalition (NTJPC) said thousands of drivers and operators participated in the simultaneous protest actions they conducted in various cities nationwide. Anselmo Perweg, spokesperson of the coalition, said it was their way of “warning” President Aquino against approving the jeepney phaseout program and the “jobs massacre” it would cause to thousands of jeepney drivers, operators, and assemblers.

“We don’t want him to sign the Department of Transportation and Communications’ draft order calling for the phase out of jeepneys registered with the Land Transportation Office in the last 15 years,” Perweg said.

In a speech at Chino Roces Bridge (formerly Mendiola) near Malacañang, Perweg also condemned Obet Martin of Pasang Masda, Efren De Luna of ACTO, Zeny Maranan of FEJODAP, Vigor Mendoza of 1-UTAK, Rolando Marquez of LTOP and Boy Vargas of ALTODAP. These are transport leaders whom the NTJPC has described as “corrupt and traitors.”

Perweg explained that these “corrupt traitors” have been exerting their utmost toward the signing of the draft order (for jeepney phaseout) before Aquino steps down. “Because if not, they will lose whatever concession and promise of kickbacks they received in exchange for having collaborated with the government in this (phaseout) program,” Perweg said.

Jeepney operators and drivers with the coalition have consistently asserted the road-worthiness of their jeepneys, saying the decades of experience they have and their continuing efforts to maintain it have proved already that the country doesn’t need wholesale importation of costly replacements.

Around 600,000 jeepney drivers and 250,000 jeepney operators nationwide stand to be adversely affected by the phaseout program, warned the coalition.

“Modern” jeepney poor replacement to local jeepneys

Local transport leaders said the supposed “modern” replacements have conked out in less than a month in Metro Manila.

Fred del Mundo, 45, a local transport leader who has been with Pasang Masda, one of the transport groups that the NTJPC brands as corrupt and traitor, shared the experience of 10 of his members in their route. These drivers-operators, he said, agreed to enter the fleet management system being pushed by the DOTC under the jeepney phaseout program supported by Pasang Masda. In particular, it is the 1-Team formed by Vigor Mendoza of 1-Utak.

Last year, del Mundo said 10 of their members agreed to trade their old jeepneys for the promised new replacements, which would be run under 1-Team. The jeepneys would cost P900,000 to P1.2 million ($19,524 to $26,032); it will be financed by loans from the Development Bank of the Philippines, and the driver-operator would pay it back as handled or managed by the 1-Team fleet system.

Del Mundo said 1-Team also promised their members P15,000 ($325) earnings per month for the 9-seater and P12,000 ($260) earnings per month for the 8-seater new “modern” jeepneys. The 1-team will supposedly take care of maintenance requirements and the cases when drivers are fined for traffic violations.

So far, only two units have been delivered, said del Mundo. But its machines overheated and conked out in less than one month.

“That is modernization?” asked del Mundo in the protest rally at Mendiola.

The local transport leader who left Pasang Masda in disgust late last year told the members of NTJPC that the jeepney drivers-operators who previously entered the fleet system now wanted to take back their “old” jeepneys and drive them again, because they have earned nothing since the new jeeps quickly conked out.

The said jeepneys, he said, bore huge banners for LP bets Mar Roxas and Leni Robredo.

To other jeepney drivers-operators, the forced importation of new jeeps would mean greater hardship both to the transport sector and commuters.

Bernardino Abapo, 33, a driver-transport leader based in Gen. Santos, told Bulatlat that in their province alone, there are more than a thousand jeepneys, 3,000-plus if you include those holding franchises for multi-cabs. He estimated that around this number will lose jobs in their province alone, plus the jeepney assemblers in Davao and Manila where they buy their jeepneys, if the phaseout was implemented.

The scenario is more dangerous in the uplands. Given that the government-supported “modern” jeeps are conking out in Manila road conditions, how will they fare in rugged places like the upland north?

Anert S. Bangsael, 45, a jeepney operator for 12 years now and a transport leader based in Baguio City, told Bulatlat that the estimated 3,000 jeepneys going to Baguio City from nearby towns have their own local assemblers. The chassis and machines of their jeepneys have been tailored to driving in Baguio City and neighboring towns.

“It has to have the strength to cross rivers and navigate up to 45-degree inclines,” he said.

jeepney drivers oppose phaseout
Leaders of various transport organizations in the country thumbed down the government program seeking to phaseout current jeepneys in favor of untried, costlier, and wholly imported jeepneys. (Photo by M. salamat / Bulatlat.com)

In a statement, PISTON Partylist belied the government’s claim that there would be no phasing out of old jeepneys under the DOTC’s transport modernization program. George San Mateo, chairman of Piston and first nominee of Piston Partylist, said that despite the government denial, “the phaseout is already being implemented through a draft order from the DOTC prohibiting the issuance of certificate of confirmation as ‘for hire’ to PUJs that has been registered for more than 15 years.

“The DOTC thinks of drivers and operators as fools by trying to dupe us with sweet but misleading statements,” said San Mateo.

The transport coalition reiterated its calls for the Aquino government to drop its planned jeepney phaseout.

Perweg asked the presidential candidates to stand with the drivers and small operators against this jeepney phaseout. “Whoever wins in the elections, we hope they will totally scrap this nefarious program.” ()

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