Drivers in protest: Costly modernization to drive us to unemployment

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Jeepney drivers and operators have vowed to continue their fight against the impending jeepney modernization plan even as Malacañang stood firm on implementing the upgrade of what had long been touted as the country’s “King of the Road”.

Ruel Obligar, 42, said joining the two-day transport strike is nothing compared to forever losing his livelihood that feeds his family of five.

“Dito po ako kumukuha ng ikabubuhay sa pamilya ko kaya hindi po ako payag na ma-phase out ang jeep,” Obligar told INQUIRER.net in an interview on Tuesday, Oct. 17.

(This is my livelihood so I am against the proposed phase out plan.)

“Ito dalawang araw lang, balewala po ito kung matuloy man ang phase out sa jeep, habang-buhay na kaming walang trabaho,” added Obligar, who is the Cubao chapter vice-president of the Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide (Piston).

(This strike is just for two days. This is nothing compared to the lifetime of joblessness.)

Obligar joined the transport strike as early as 12 a.m. on Monday to express his strong opposition to the jeepney modernization plan. He has been a jeepney driver for 24 years and currently plying the Vito Cruz-Cubao route.

Like any jeepney driver, Obligar said he could not afford the P1.8 million cost of the public utility vehicle under the proposed jeepney upgrading scheme, which would be implemented via the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board’s (LTFRB) Omnibus Franchising Guidelines (OFG).

Protesting drivers believed that if the government would insist, the jeepney modernization plan could drive 600,000 jeepney drivers and 300,000 operators into unemployment.

The government’s modernization plan is seen to phase out jeepneys that are more than 15 years old, and usher in electrically-powered jeepneys with solar roofs.

Piston national president George San Mateo explained that his group is not against the modernization, but was only criticizing the prevailing scheme, which they deemed as “unjust” for the jeepney drivers and operators.

Piston has been pushing for the cheaper alternative of rehabilitation for jeepneys and a nationalized, efficient, and mass transportation system.

“In any modernization program, there should be no dislocation. In any modernization program, it should be socially just. In any modernization program, it should be affordable and should not be treated as business,” San Mateo told INQUIRER.net.

He said that instead of importing materials for the proposed new jeepneys, the government should ask foreign investors to build local plants to manufacture the vehicles.

“Magtayo locally at bigyan ng incentives itong manufacturing plant para kung ipo-produce nila na makina makukuha ng maliliit na operators sa murang presyo,” he explained.

(Build local plants and give incentives to these manufacturing plants so that what they produce would be bought in cheaper prices.)

San Mateo assailed the administration for “forcing” the scheme, saying President Rodrigo Duterte is no different from his predecessor.

“Galit daw sa oligarchs pero programa naman ng oligarchs ang pinapatupad. ‘Yan and bitter truth, walang pagbabago, mas sumahol pa ‘yung kalagayan namin,” San Mateo said.  – Inquirer.net