With each day considered as a challenge to make both ends meet for jeepney drivers and their families, Mayor REX Gatchalian led the distribution of the food packs before the officers and members of the various Jeepney Operators and Drivers Associations (JODAs) with terminals in Valenzuela City on Thursday.
Taking the time to visit seven jeepney terminals in the City, Mayor REX also inquired of the JODAs’ plans on the modernization of jeepneys or the Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP), promising that the City Government will assist and walk them through the entire process should they decide to push through on having modernized units.
With the resumption of operations of public utility jeepneys (PUJs) still on hold despite the declaration of General Community Quarantine (GCQ) and the “traditional” jeepney phaseout posing an apparent threat amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Valenzuela City sees to it that the City Government feels the struggles of the displaced jeepney drivers and will gladly assist their respective JODAs on applying for the jeepney modernization program.
The Department of Transportation (DOTr) pioneers the PUVMP of the national government with the purpose of pushing for the country’s public transportation system to be more efficient and environmentally friendly by 2020. Hoping for a positive outcome, the drive and urgency to push for change has been met with criticisms as it is expected to affect the livelihood of around 600,000 jeepney drivers across the country.
JODAs have until December 2020 to consolidate their franchise and form cooperatives or else they forfeit the chance to be granted franchise and operate in their routes.
However, modernization comes with a hefty prize. Each modernized jeepney costs anywhere between Php 1.2 to 2.2 million and is fitted out with a Global Positioning System (GPS), a closed-circuit television camera (CCTV), an air-conditioning unit, WiFi access and a television. It also charges a higher fare compared to a regular jeep, and is soon expected to integrate an automated fare collection system using coins and Beep cards.
PUJs stopped operating along with all other forms of public transportation on March 17, when the National Capital Region (NCR) was placed under Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ). When NCR shifted to a more relaxed General Community Quarantine (GCQ) last June 1, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) announced that the resumption of public transportation will roll out in two phases.
Jeepneys will only be permitted to ply the roads beginning June 22, with modern jeeps or e-jeeps given priority over the old, “traditional” ones.
In true-blue Alagang Valenzuelano fashion, Mayor REX gave out food packs to 1,430 jeepney drivers and operators during his visit to their terminals.
Among the beneficiaries were the officers and members of Karuhatan - Gen. T. de Leon - Ugong Operators and Drivers Association, Inc. (KARTUJODA), Malinta - Caloocan - Novaliches Jeepney Operators and Drivers Association, Inc. (MACANOJODA), Novaliches - Malinta Jeepney Operators and Drivers Association, Inc. (NMJTSC), Malinta - Valenzuela - Novaliches Operators and Drivers Association, Inc. (MAVANODA), Malanday - Polo - Paco Operators and Drivers Association, Inc. (MBVJODA), Meycauayan - Lawang Bato - Punturin - Bignay Jeepney Operators and Drivers Association, Inc. (MELAPBJODA), and Alliance - Valenzuela - Meycauayan Jeepney Operators and Drivers Association, Inc. (AVAMEJODA).
Jason Gumales, 20-year-old jeepney driver, gratefully shares that "Malaking tulong po ito para sa'min sa pang-araw-araw naming pamumuhay. At least may makakain po kami. Noong ECQ, medyo mahirap po kasi wala po kaming mapagkunan ng pagkakakitaan at kahit papa'no naman po, itong yung ibinigay ni Mayor, makakatulong sa'min." He wistfully adds, "Sana po mabalik na ang pagbiyahe ng jeep dahil masyado na kaming nahihirapan."
Rather than waiting and putting their families' lives at risk of getting sick and going hungry, Mayor REX also encouraged the operators and drivers to keep an open mind about jeepney modernization.
"Hindi ko kayo pipilitin kung ayaw ninyo. Pero kailangan nating maging proactive. Meron tayong kasamahan, nag-apply na, inabutan ng ECQ. Meron tayong mga kasamahan, ngayon namumulat na… Bago may magka-interes na iba sa mga ruta natin, tayo dapat yun. Kayo dapat yun,” Mayor REX said.
“Pangalawa, hindi naman matatapos 'tong usapan ng modernized jeep. Kahit payagan kayo ngayon, laging may banta na huhulihin kayo… Hindi ba mas maganda tapusin na natin? Solusyunan na para makatulog na tayo nang mahimbing sa gabi. Pangatlo, ito ang offer ko sa inyo, mag-usap kayo at kung mag-decide kayo na mag-modernize, tutulungan namin kayong maglakad [ng papeles] sa mga ahensiya… Hindi pwedeng hindi kaya e. Kasi lahat naman sa mundo mahirap e. Pero pag hindi mo sisimulan, walang mangyayari sa atin," Mayor REX added.
Mayor REX is expected to meet with the JODA presidents again next week to further discuss this matter.
Changing the perspective on jeepney modernization is never easy, but Valenzuela City sees to it that while JODAs are now experiencing the prolonged livelihood impacts of the quarantine period, jeepney drivers are allies alike in helping “move” people and businesses, an undeniable and significant part in mobilizing the economy.
Mayor REX vows, "We will make sure that in the meantime that they cannot earn a living, food packs will be given to sustain their family's needs, for as long as the city can… Will also help them comply with the national government mandate on modernizing. "
As of January 2020, three (3) transport cooperatives have already applied for the PUV modernization loan program that are operating in the city. Bank financing through the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) and the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) were granted to the cooperatives namely, Metro Valenzuela Transport Service Cooperative, Inc. (METROVAL) with 17 units, Novaliches-Malinta Jeepney Transport Service Cooperative (NMJTSC) currently with 23 units and another 29 units to be turned over this year, and Blumentritt Transport Service Cooperative.
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