By NORWIN GONZALES
BAGUIO CITY – Hundreds gathered in Baguio City today, October 16, to protest the impending jeepney phaseout.
The protest was part of a nationally-coordinated transport strike against the said policy.
Drivers, operators and commuters from all over Baguio City and the province of Benguet participated in the rally which started in front of the Baguio Convention Center and culminated in the People’s Park. PISTON – Metro Baguio and Tongtongan Ti Umili led the protesters.
They slammed the Duterte government’s jeepney phaseout plan as a step towards “monopolization and corporatization” of public transport by big businesses that is just “masked as modernization”.
Carlito Wayas, president of PISTON – Metro Baguio, lamented about the price of the e-jeepney, the proposed alternative, which ranges from P1 million to P1.3 million. They are given seven years to pay, with an annual amortization of 6%. This, according to him, is a price too much to pay for Cordilleran drivers.
According to Rey Bacoco, an operator, one must present a “show money” ranging from P7 million to P10 million to become an e-jeepney operator. One must also have a minimum of ten jeepneys. If he is unable to secure ten units, he will have to band with others to form a cooperative.
This policy, according to protesters, threatens the livelihood of small operators in Baguio and Benguet, as it obviously grants advantage to bigger businessmen to become service providers.
Bacoco also said 88% of the jeepneys in Baguio will be affected by the phaseout.
Protesters also criticized the automatic fare collection system (AFCS) which digitizes the payment process and directly sends payments to the business owner, thereby leaving the drivers with a fixed income determined by the business owner.
Commuters went on to support the drivers and operators, and also voiced out their opinions on the issue. They fear foremost the possible hike in the fare when the phaseout comes into play.
The jeepney phaseout sees implementation on 2018, with an approved budget of P843.45 million. # Norwin Gonzales