By OLGA LAUZON
BAGUIO CITY – Almost 550 jeepney drivers, operators and members of transport groups here participated in the February 27 nationwide strike, to express their disapproval over the Department of Transportation (DOTr)’s modernization program that orders the phase-out of the Filipino jeepney.
In the program in front of the DOTr Baguio Office, Pinag-isang Samahan ng mg Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide (PISTON) – Metro Baguio president Carlito Wayas said that the phase-out will cause the loss of livelihood for 8000 – 9000 jeepney drivers in Baguio and millions of others in the whole country.
Under the government’s modernization program, a 15-year age limit will be imposed on public utility jeepneys (PUJs), in addition to standards on carbon emission and fleet management. The program includes a provision that requires old jeepneys to be replaced by electronic jeeps imported from abroad which costs around P1.5 million per vehicle.
“How are we going to afford these e-jeeps with our meager income as small-time drivers and operators? This program does not really serve us, but that of the companies whose pockets will benefit when this program pushes through. They want to profit from the jeepney units operating in the country,” Wayas said in Ilocano.
According to Wayas, even if the government offered a purchase on credit program, drivers and operators will still be economically burdened because they will have to work double time to be able to pay the amortization on top of having to earn a living. Further, it has been proven in test-drives that e-jeeps could not endure the Cordillera terrain.
He added that transport groups are not the only sector affected by the modernization program, but commuters as well.
In a separate statement, PISTON national president George San Mateo said that the transport groups are not against modernization. They are advocating for the government to assist the rehabilitation of run-down jeeps and not replacing them with foreign e-jeeps. He also said that the DOTr is an “environmental hypocrite” to use climate change as the reason for the jeepney phase-out when the government has approved the operation of forty coal power plants in the country.
Members of the Alliance of Jeepney Drivers and Operators in the BLISTT and the Baguio-Benguet Movement Against PUJ Phase-out also participated in the protest march. # nordis.net