By Joseph Almer Pedrajas
With the looming phase-out of traditional jeepneys, hundreds of affected drivers joined on Saturday celebrations for the Day of Solidarity in different parts of Metro Manila and called on government to reconsider its plan.
The drivers stressed they are not yet prepared to purchase modernized jeepneys due to the crisis brought about by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak.
Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) Secretary General Renato Reyes said various members of their alliance, including Piston, KMU, ACT, Kabataan, Gabriela and Agham, led the distribution of relief packs to drivers who lost their source of income following the enhanced quarantine that suspended mass transportation.
Among those who received aid were drivers plying the routes of Cubao – Parang, UP Diliman, Roces – Cubao and Rizal Ave.
“Marami [pa]. Tinitipon pa namin yung reports [There’s a lot more. We’re just consolidating reports],” he said, adding there are jeepney drivers in Caloocan and Marikina who have yet to receive aid.
During the distribution, Reyes said, drivers held placards appealing to government to allow them to resume operations in Metro Manila and abolish the planned phase-out of traditional jeepneys.
“Yung main call nila is to be allowed to resume operations tapos i-abandon yung jeepney phase-out sa panahon na may kinakaharap tayong pandemic [They wanted government to allow them to resume operations and abandon the planned phase-out of the jeepneys in this time of the pandemic],” Reyes told the Manila Bulletin in an interview.
He said jeepney drivers “are willing” to adapt to changes but are not ready to do so at the moment because the “drivers had no income for the last 105 days.”
“That should be addressed by the government,” he added, “for them para ayusin ang kanilang jeeps [for them to fix their jeepneys], there would be some kind of support.”
Reyes said “a majority” of the drivers his group talked to has not yet received any Social Amelioration assistance from the government.
Reyes also bewailed the “slow” action of the government in the distribution of cash assistance. “For emergency measure, they are slow in providing relief to the people. The biggest proof is the non-distribution of the second trance to the non-4Ps [members],” he added.
Several photos circulating on social media showed drivers begging for alms to buy food on the road where they were once hailed as “kings.”
“Tapos kung makakatanggap sila ng relief, hahatiin pa nila yun. Kasi bibigyan nila yung kanilang mga kapitbahay na wala ring makain [Then, when they receive relief packs, they will still share it with their neighbors who also have no food to eat],” Reyes added.