UP jeepney drivers plying several routes have been forced to consolidate franchises following the government’s continued push to implement the Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP).
Noncompliance with the PUVMP would mean revocation of their franchise. Following the previously set consolidation deadline last December 31, 2023, drivers of UP-PHILCOA, UP-SM North EDSA, and UP Ikot jeeps have consolidated into different cooperatives.
UP Ikot, UP-PHILCOA, UP-Pantranco, and UP-SM North routes are at least 60 percent consolidated, according to data from the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board. The UP-Katipunan route, on the other hand, is still below 60 percent consolidation.
Maroon Riders Transport Cooperative is one of the cooperatives traveling inside the campus. Its members largely include UP Ikot jeepneys. UP Ikot leader Cesar Sta Maria said their routes have no problem with generating sufficient income due to the high number of passengers.
However, this is not the case with other jeepney lines. Drivers of the UP-PHILCOA route, for instance, deem the PUVMP as a constant financial struggle rather than an improvement to the transportation experience for the drivers and passengers.
“Mahirap na kumuha ng pasahero para sa amin, kaunti na lang kita namin tapos babayad kami na mahal na registration fee para mag-operate,” Ferdie Damasco, leader of the UP-PHILCOA Jeepney Drivers Association (UPJDA), told the Collegian.
For Damasco, his primary concern is sustaining their earnings amid low ridership and the immense decline of UPDJA membership. They have no plans of availing the multimillion modern jeepney unit.
Similarly, Sta. Maria said the group plans to continue to drive their traditional jeepney units and maintain their operations due to having enough passengers in their route.
The government has boasted the PUVMP to provide drivers with regular earnings and decent working hours, as opposed to the “boundary system.” However, for UP routes with only a small number of drivers and relatively lower ridership, measly and irregular income could remain a problem despite franchise consolidation.
With only initially five members, Damasco said transport cooperatives in UP were hesitant to invite drivers of UP-PHILCOA jeeps due to low earnings from the route.
To remedy this, they eventually formed a transport cooperative with 19 UP Ikot drivers. Damasco said their UP Ikot members and the UP-PHILCOA drivers sometimes shift routes for them to get more passengers.
While the PUVMP continues to challenge jeepney drivers with financial woes and recurring expenses to pay loans, UP-PHILCOA drivers have suffered more as they were initially prohibited this academic year by the UP Diliman (UPD) administration to roam the campus after 6 p.m.
They were only allowed to operate in the evenings this January after an intervention by the UPD University Student Council.
Moreover, Damasco said the construction of Metro Rail Transit Line 7 (MRT-7) could also spell their displacement. It is expected that the construction of the train line, which is slated to have a stop near University Avenue, will demolish their makeshift terminal at the back of the old CitiMall.
“Problema talaga namin ngayon yung MRT-7, kabuhayan namin nakataya eh. Concern din namin yung mga estudyante, paano na sila pag wala na kami?” Damasco said.
UP jeepney drivers, however, remain in limbo, despite their move to join transport cooperatives. Route consolidation is, after all, only the first step in the government’s incessant push to implement PUVMP, whose deadline is now moved to April 30. What they hope now is more help from the university administration whose community they are serving.
“Nahihirapan na nga kami hindi pa kami sinusuportahan ng admin, parang nakalimutan kami. Ni konsulta kung may kooperatiba kami, wala sila tinanong. Parang pinabayaan na kami,” Damasco said. ●
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