A TRANSPORT VEHICLE OF CHOICE. D'Christ Jeepney has been transporting both locals and tourists going to the world famous Puerto Princesa Underground River everyday for decades now. | Photo from Edong Magpayo

Jeepney drivers in Puerto Princesa are not keen on the government’s public utility vehicle (PUV) modernization program, stating they are unable to shoulder the cost of the modernized jeepney as mandated in the program.

“Hindi pa viable yung area natin, ng tulad satin dito sa Puerto Princesa, yung kita sa pamamasada, hindi pa kayang bayaran yung modern jeep,” one driver, who asked not to be identified, said.

He explained that the modern jeep is too costly for them to shoulder by themselves.

“Nasa P2.4M hanggang 2.8M kaya kung dito mo ibabase lang sa kita sa pasada sa Puerto Princesa, hindi pa kayang bayaran yung ganong modernization na ano. Walang masama sa modernization, yun lang hindi pa kayang bayaran yung dito sa Puerto Princesa yung kikitain yung pambayad sa jeep,” he added.

Another said the government should share the cost of the program rather than force operators to abide by it on their own.

“Dapat unang-una gobyerno yung may malaking support. Hindi yung nakaisip sila na mag-modernize pero ipapasa nila yung obligasyon sa mga operator, driver. Project nila, supposed to be sila yung may pinakamalaking tulong, hindi yung yung buong project, pinasa lang sa operator yung kanilang project na modernization,” said another driver.

According to Pinagkaisang Samahan ng Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (PISTON), a modernized jeep would cost P2.4-P2.6 million as compared to the traditional jeepney that is available at P200,000-P600,000. Rehabilitation of the traditional jeep to conform with the DOTr standard would cost P900,000. Something that is costly for ordinary jeepney drivers and operators.

“Kawawa naman kaming mga maliit na drivers operator. Kasi wala kaming pang gastos dyan sa modernization na unit. Kasi P2.8 eh ang kaya lang namin ay hanggang kalahating milyon lang eh, wala pa nga P300k lang ang unit,” one driver stated.

Traditional jeepneys were given until December 31 of this year to join corporations or cooperatives with at least 15 vehicles for the renewal of their provisional authority (PA) to operate from the supposed deadline of June 30 as per the LTFRB Omnibus Franchising Guidelines issued in 2017.

Jeepneys that are 15 years older and those who did not fit the governments required specifications will not be granted a PA and will be phased out.

For some local jeepney drivers, the government should provide those who will be affected with alternative livelihoods that would support their families.

“Unang una sa mga driver operator, diyan malaki ang epekto, kasi siyempre ikaw kapag phinaseout ka, mawawalan ka ng unit. Ganun yun. Kaya hindi rin basta basta yang salitang phaseout, kasi dapat kung phaseout hahanda ang gobyerno sa mga maapektuhan. Hindi lang yung sasabihan nila “phaseout na kayo bukas”. Paano naman yung mapha-phaseout, ano yung hanapbuhay niya. Dapat muna mag provide ang gobyerno para sa phaseout kung ang i-phaphaseout, hanapan kami ng ibang trabaho,” a driver lamented.

Some younger drivers also consider the future of their elder colleagues who have grown older with their units in an everyday plight to make a living.

“Ang hanap-buhay namin dito namin kunukuha yung pangkain namin araw-araw, pang-support sa mga anak namin sa mga estudyante namin. Kung tinanggal nila to, kumbaga back to zero kami. Kumbaga maghahanap kami ng bagong trabaho. halimbawa sa akin medyo okay pa kasi medyo bata pa ‘ko, pano yung mga kasamahan naming driver na may edad na? Sino pa bang tatanggap ng trabaho diyan, diba?” another driver said.

To some, prohibiting their old traditional jeepneys on the streets would be the end of the road for them.

“Eh wala na di na ako maka pamasada kasi wala na akong unit, hindi ko man matigil [ang pamamasada] eh pampaaral sa anak. yun ang mahirap kasi baka hindi na kami maka paaral ng anak, kasi wala na kami kikitain, dito nga lang ako nakakuha ng pang gastos para makapag tapos ang anak ko sa pag aaral eh ngayon? wala na kasi, wala na kami dito sa lansangan kasi hindi naman namin kaya yung matataas na halaga ng sasakyan na gusto ng gobyerno,” they said. (with reports from Jazzuri Thea Guzman, Kyle Gwynlee Dagot, and Darrius Jeremiah Miguel)