Valenzuela’s Cash-for-Work program helps tide drivers, unemployed, marginalized over

Hundreds of jeepney drivers affected by the suspension of mass transport in Metro Manila have turned to street sweeping and de-clogging of waterways to earn a living in Valenzuela City.

Rogelio Simangan, 41 who has been plying routes in Quezon and Valenzuela cities for 15 years is among the beneficiaries of Valenzuela's Cash-for-Work program where he earned P5,000.

Under the program, more than a thousand displaced workers were temporarily employed by Valenzuela City to clean the streets and waterways for 10 days starting Aug. 20.  They finally received their salary from the local government Friday (Sept. 4).

About 869 jeepney operators and drivers in the city were prioritized to provide them with livelihood following the suspension of mass transportation due to coronavirus disease (COVID-19) lockdowns.

A father of three, Simangan said that one of the reasons he applied for the program was to make sure his youngest, aged one would have milk to drink. 

"Mahirap ang buhay namin dahil hindi po kami nakakabiyahe. Una sa lahat, wala rin kaming mapasukan na ibang trabaho (Life is hard for us because we're not allowed to operate and there are no jobs available)," he told Valenzuela City government personnel.

“Kung sa pagkain naman po, kaya ko naman pong . Kasi minsan humihingi ako ng tulong sa mga ate ko. Binibigyan po nila ako kahit papano — bigas, mga de lata, at sardinas. ‘Yung gatas lang po talaga ng anak ko ang importante (In terms of food, I ask help from my siblings who give me rice, canned goods and sardines. But my child's milk is what's really important),” he added.

Aside from jeepney drivers, Mayor Rex Gatchalian said some 631 members of an urban poor group and solo parents from the city were also employed.

"As stipulated in the Guidelines for the Implementation of the Cash-for-Work Project... the project shall serve as a 'short-term intervention to provide temporary employment to distressed/displaced individuals by participating in or undertaking preparedness, mitigation, relief, rehabilitation or risk reduction projects and activities in their communities or in evacuation centers,'" the local government explained.

But income generated from the program cannot be relied upon as a means of livelihood, especially by jeepney drivers because it is short-lived. Aside from this, the drivers are likewise threatened by transport modernization that they fear would phase out traditional jeepneys.

Gatchalian called for a dialogue with the members of the city's jeepney operators and associations to raise the idea of rolling out a Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program in the city and assured them that the city will help them in the registration process.

Simangan expressed his gratitude to the local government for the program as “it was a big help” for him.

“Sana po, ‘yun pong problema natin sa pandemic magwakas na at tuloy-tuloy na ang hanapbuhay namin (I hope that this pandemic will soon be over so we can earn a living again),” he said.