The UP-PHILCOA Jeepney Drivers Association (UPJDA) is confronting an existential crisis as the construction of the Metro Rail Transit Line 7 (MRT-7) could lead to the removal of their terminal near Citi Mall’s former site along Commonwealth Avenue.
The MRT-7 is a railway project by the Department of Transportation (DOTr) that stretches from North Avenue in Quezon City to San Jose Del Monte City in Bulacan. The project, which costs around P63 billion, is slated to have a stop near University Avenue.
“Sa PHILCOA, pinagsabihan na kami ng isang engineer na baka paalisan na kami para sa MRT-7 this year. Kinatatakutan ko, baka mag impake na kami ng gamit, ngayon saan kami pupwesto?” Ferdie Damasco, leader of UPJDA, told the Collegian.
Damasco said they are expected to leave the terminal by the end of the year. San Miguel Corporation, which operates the train line, said MRT-7 could open by the first quarter of 2025.
Other than the imminent displacement of drivers to give way for the construction of the MRT-7, UPJDA also fears job insecurity amid the ongoing jeepney modernization program.
Damasco said that UPJDA had over 100 members before the pandemic. However, the number of members dwindled from over a hundred to 10 due to the pandemic, and their operators’ inability to cover the price of a modern jeepney which comes at a steep price between P1.4 to P3 million.
The significant drop in members is due to the phaseout of old jeepneys under the Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP). Damasco added that their measly income from driving around the campus could not cover the hefty price of a modern jeepney.
Under the PUVMP by DOTr, jeepneys that are 15 years old and above are allowed to operate, but they should belong to a corporation to meet safety guidelines or acquire a new modern jeep.
While the PUVMP offers an environmentally friendly alternative, it drew flak from the transportation sector as many jeepney drivers would need to apply for loans to buy new units, or to find other operators.
Jeepney operators who are not able to meet the consolidation requirement will get their franchise revoked per LTFRB Memorandum Circular 2023-013. The consolidation requirement mandates operators to form cooperatives to collectively avail modernized jeepneys with government support.
“Buhay pa ang tinatakutan namin, at yan yung jeepney modernization. Kung hindi kami naka-rehistro, hindi kami makakabyahe. Yung paglilingkod naman namin ay hindi para sa amin [kundi] para ito sa mga iskolar ng bayan,” Damasco said.
The jeepneys are a cultural staple and an important service provider inside UP. As UPJDA members struggle with dwindling income and imminent displacement, a group of UP students made an effort to spread awareness about UPJDA’s calls.
“Kung mawawala ang UP-PHILCOA jeepneys, saan sasakay ang malaking populasyon ng UP?” Andres Pundiño, a community development student, told the Collegian.
Pundiño and his group posted an awareness campaign and a call for financial support in a Facebook post concerning UP-PHILCOA jeepneys. The group also called for a change of route for the UPJDA.
The route was recently changed under the newly appointed Vice Chancellor for Community Affairs Roehl Jamon. Damasco said that the new route is in its testing phase in the first week of September and they hope to gain more passengers from the new route.
“Sana tulungan ninyo kami, mga drayber at operator. Hiling po namin na wag ninyo kami pabayaan kasi hindi lang para sa amin to, pinaglilingkuran namin ang unibersidad,” Damasco said. ●
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