Baguio-Benguet drivers, operators against PUJ phaseout

By SHAIRA SANTOS
www.nordis.net

BAGUIO CITY — “Yes to rehabilitation, No to fake modernization!” clamored by the Baguio-Benguet jeepney drivers and operators as they marched from the Convention Center to the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) office, last July 17, in support to the nationally coordinated action against the government’s modernization program of public utility jeepneys (PUJ).

NO TO PHASE OUT. Over 300 public utility vehicle drivers and operators once again marched in protest to the proposed trasport modernization program that would take away their source of livelihood. Photo by Candice Mangili

No to fake modernization

“Sa tingin namin po, ang program ng gobyerno na modernization ng mga sasakyan ay hindi modernization kundi pag-phase out po sa mga sasakyan namin,” Carlito Wayas, President of  Pinag-isang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide (PISTON) – Metro Baguio.

The government’s modernization program of PUJs indicates that the old jeeps shall be replaced by electronic jeeps (e-jeepney) that costs about P1.5 million each. The program also imposed a 15-year old limit on PUJs, prohibiting the old vehicles to be used for public transportation.

Cristio Lagyop, an operator based in Ambyong, La Trinidad said that the PUJs should be modernized by the drivers and operators’ own means.

“Hindi naman sa ayaw naming nyan (modernization program) pero sana naman i-modernize yung mga sasakyan namin sa paraan namin at hindi sa paraan nila o totally pag phase-out kasi iba ang phase-out sa i-improve mo lang,” said Lagyop in an interview.

According to the government, this program will be a great help in regulating the traffic problems in the country. In addition, by altering the traditional jeepneys with e-jeepney, the government thinks that this will reduce the carbon emitting vehicles in the country that bears bad effects to the environment.

An operator said that this modernization, altering the traditional jeepneys with the e-jeepney believed to be more eco-friendly for it uses solar energy, will only favor the rich capitalist.

“Itong modernization na papalitan ang jeep natin ng e-jeepney, para lang yan mag-ganansya ang mga kapitalista. Pero ito, atin na ito for more than 50 years. Atin yung jeep na bumabyahe ngayon. Sasakyang pang-masa, gawa ng masa! Sana yun ang suportahan ng gobyerno,” one operator told her fellow operators and jeeney drivers.

Drivers and operators’ clamor

Baguio-Benguet jeepney drivers and operators strongly disapprove this program for it will cripple not only their family but the people who use jeepney as their means of transportation as well.

“Sa 900 pesos na boundary (e-jeepney), kung hindi magtataas ng pamasahe, wala kaming kikitain. Kaag naman nagtaas ng pamasahe, aalma din ang mga pasahero kaya dapat maisip ng mga pasahero na apektado din sila,” said one driver.

Further, an operator said that this program demands a huge amount of capital which they cannot afford instantly. Lawrence Anao said, “Eh ang mahal ng capital para sa mga bago buti sana kung bibilhin nila yung mga luma naming jeep para may pambili kami ng bago kaso hindi eh. Gusto nila phase out agad.”

A driver’s wife who joined the march also said that this if ever the jeepney phase-out be fully implemented, it will have a great effect on their family since it is their only source of income to sustain their basic needs and the education of their children.

Lourdes Agustin, an operator owning three PUJs, explained that for every one jeepney, two families are depending on its income per day—the families of her three children, and the families of each jeepney driver. Further, the boundary being paid to her by the drivers is not even enough for the maintenance of the PUJs.

“Kapag isang araw lang na hindi bumiyahe ang sasakyan namin, sakit na sa bulsa. Hindi lang maintenance ang ginagastusan ng isang operator taon-taon. Kasi meron ka pang babayaran sa BIR, sa registration ng jeep, madami yan! Halos wala na nga kami kinikita paano pa kaya papalitan ng bago,” said Agustin in an interview.

Possible exemption

Some drivers and operators had their hopes up when the Department of Transportation (DOTr) Assistant Director Mohammad Nasser Abbas arrived and discussed the request for exemption of the Cordillera from the government’s modernization program.

According to Abbas, he had a dialogue with Usec. Lontoc and he has been tasked to present a nine-point agenda on July 21 regarding the advantage and disadvantage of the jeepney phase out both for the operators, drivers, and passengers.

He then asked the help of the drivers and operators to point out these advantages and disadvantages which will be forwarded to the undersecretary though him.

“Ang gawin natin, since under tayo ni under secretary Lontoc, iforward natin nabaka we can exempt Cordillera because of the basis na ang e-jeep ay hindi kaya nyan na solar powered nay an na makaakyat sa Baguio kasi iba ang landscape ditto compared sa ibang lugar at same kasi ang sinisingil na pamasahe dito compared sa iba diba,” Abbas told the protesting drivers and operators.

However, the assistant director cleared out that the ‘kakarag-karag’, old jeepneys have to be phased out. The jeepneys that shall be covered by the exemption are those in good condition for public transtportation.

One jeepney driver replied to Abbas that almost all of the PUJs here in Baguio are in good condition.

Abbas added that all the matters being brought up regarding the PUJs modernization are not yet final since the dialogue has just started. # nordis.net

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