Not even a three-month reprieve could end transport groups and commuters’ opposition to the Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP). What they are calling for is the complete scrapping of the program that will rob thousands of drivers of their livelihood and possibly trigger a transport crisis come April 30.
This came after President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. approved on January 25 a three-month extension that gives jeepney drivers and operators until April 30 to join or form a corporation or a transport cooperative. The franchise consolidation deadline was first set on January 1, and a second deadline was given on February 1.
Still, for drivers like Dionisio Bendoy, the extension is a mere band-aid solution.
“Dapat bigyan ng kalayaan ang mga tsuper na mag-consolidate, hindi dapat sapilitan. Bakit kinakailangang ibasura namin ang mga sasakyan namin para lamang mangutang sa mga dayuhan?” Bendoy said.
The PUVMP would mean forcing drivers and operators into a transport cooperative or corporation and paying for units that are not under their ownership. The program will also ban traditional jeepneys from plying their routes, despite still being in good condition.
“Kung kailangan i-rehab ang unit namin, i-re-rehab namin. Kung kailangan pagandahin ang unit, pagagandahin namin. Pero yung tatanggalan kami ng hanapbuhay sa kalsada, di kami papayag. Lalaban na kami nang patayan,” Bendoy said.
In the continuous fight for livelihood, commuters are with the drivers and operators to denounce the PUVMP. They, too, will be affected by the lack of affordable public transportation, as 306 routes in Metro Manila alone have less than 60 percent consolidation.
Julie Anne Gutierrez, a commuter and spokesperson of Tanggol Pasada Network, stressed that commuters have a big role in advancing jeepney drivers and operators’ rights in calling for the ultimate junking of the PUVMP.
“Binigyan sila ng extension pero gabi-gabi, pasanin pa rin nila at iisipin na mawawalan sila ng hanapbuhay. Bilang manggagawa, hindi tumataas ang sahod ko. Kaya kung ang maidudulot ng modernization ay ang pagtaas ng pasahe, doble dagok ito para sa amin,” said Gutierrez.
All over the country, there are still 1,767 routes without consolidated vehicles according to LTFRB. Should the original PUVMP deadline have been followed, all these routes would effectively be abolished, affecting commuters and operators alike.
“Ang tatlong buwan ay dapat pagbuhusan ng mga commuter ng dugo’t pawis para ipaglaban ang kinabukasan at ikabubuhay,” Gutierrez said.
The deadline to consolidate and join cooperatives and corporations was once again extended, but still, the drivers’ and operators’ ultimate demand to junk the PUVMP altogether remains unheard.
“Bumibigat na ang ating panawagan. Magpapatuloy ang pakikibaglaban namin hangga’t hindi kami bibigyan ng kalayaan sa hanapbuhay,” said Bendoy. ●
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