May 24, 2024 (10:10 PM)

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TRANSITION. Although the consolidation of jeepneys in Davao City is extended until 2025 in preparation for the roll-out of modernized PUVMPs, drivers
continue to struggle to make ends meet as the unpredictability of weather patterns persists. Photo by Wendyl A. Geronimo

More often than not, when confronted about the far-reaching outcry of jeepney modernization, some people imagine a society leaning towards an all-adaptive modernized lifestyle. But as the idea of modernization increasingly unblurs, it appears this set out is anchored in a presupposition that what comes as a crucial step in light of the implementation are these traditional units to be put at stake. The much-persevered duties of jeepney drivers are toiled – their children and the families who primarily depend on them. 

In the issue promulgated by the Department of Transportation (DOTr), the Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP) or the Jeepney Modernization was launched. As this program modernizes public utility vehicles, it seeks to rectify transport-related problems necessary in the country to cater to the environmental implications, safety, and security. 

With workers trying to make way for their voices to be heard, it says something about the cruciality of the subject that reflects a sense of responsibility not only towards themselves but also to their children and families. This calls for a discomforting question—has jeepney modernization remained truthful to its purpose rather than being reduced to a level that capitalizes on the discomforts of Filipino people?

Modernization’s impact beyond drivers

Jeepneys, Filipino’s primary mode of transportation, have long been a significant part of our identity. However, for others, it is more than a mode of transportation; it is also a livelihood—a source of income to make ends meet. From the drivers’ children’s perspective, eradicating their parents’ work will have significant adverse effects. 

 In a social media post by Aria Woo, a child of a jeepney driver, she stated that although her father was a single parent, he was able to provide for her studies. 

“My father has been a driver for as long as I know. Reaching a quota of 500 per day plus 500-900 for gasoline (all of this daily) is already difficult. Not to mention the heat these days and the stormy days he had been through. Thanks to his hard work, I am now graduating from college,” she mentioned in her post.

In an interview with Atenews, she explained how his father went from driving trucks to being a family driver and now a jeepney driver. With his father the only one providing since it’s just the two of them, he received invitations to transition to modern jeepneys but still chose to drive traditional jeepneys as his heart belonged to them.

Val, a first-year Accountancy student from Ateneo de Davao University whose father is also a jeepney driver, stated that jeepney modernization will negatively affect their family. With her father’s job at stake, Val didn’t know how to cope with the government’s eagerness to modernize jeepneys. 

“I was actually feeling in between because modernization has a lot of benefits. However, it also has some disadvantages that could impact the PUJ drivers,” Val told Atenews. Thanks to his father, Val was able to study and pursue her choice of program.

          From the narratives of the jeepney drivers’ children, the extensive modernization of jeepneys has hampered their family’s livelihood. It was already difficult for these road heroes with all of the hustle and bustle brought on by their work, and the push for modernity only caused them added misery, temporarily or permanently.

Hope amidst consolidation

With clamors side by side and the hope that the government will hear the plight of the jeepney drivers, the upper hand is still at the helm of a consequential decision as they hold the chance of providing an extension to the consolidated units. Aria Woo also expressed that her family did not receive any financial assistance from the government in relation to modernization. 

      “Although, there was a time 2-3 years ago, where the local government announced financial assistance, it was a total failure. They were told to go home since, apparently, there was no such thing but father already talked to some of the drivers who were able to receive the financial assistance on that day,” she told Atenews. 

      The consolidation of the nationwide PUVMP has periled drivers and operators long enough since it was established, with the costly maintenance and the eventual phasing out of traditional units. Drivers are constantly placed at the pitfall, leading to lost income and an unsteady trajectory to jobs. 

         In Davao City, drivers and operators amassing about 6,500 units are not impacted by the consolidation of the program in adherence to the Davao Bus Project. The program is intended to benefit Davaoeño commuters through a convenient riding experience, serving as a benchmark for other urban road projects once entirely administered. Although the bus project will not be operational until 2025, Davao City will not be included in the strict deadlines pushed by the PUVMP. With this, jeepney drivers in the city risk losing their jobs completely as the time ticks in the city’s expedition to become more ‘modernized.’

The concept of modernization has always been polarizing. Tuning in with sustainable practices and considering comfort in transportation are a few reasons for this governmental approach. But for drivers, modernization might take a different turn, one that is marked by a resolute resistance. Recently, transport groups in Davao City have been actualizing strikes to shed on their long-held stance on rehabilitating the units and opposing the need for phaseout. 

As long as drivers, along with their children and families, are explicitly overthrown at the expense of this transition, then we are not holistically moving toward development. The painful eagerness of unfed hopes—their mere intention to latch onto their long-standing livelihood—continues to be threatened in whatever way this transition is enacted. 

The jeepney modernization requires competency, and so does the government implementing it. Assessing that the program is invaluable enough will not satiate the stark reality of discomforts posed to the vulnerable ones. Rather, it should extend to a proactive campaign that aligns with the principles of drivers toward better transitioning – one that is marked by a direction where welfare is the primary concern. 

This article was published in the April 2024 Tabloid Issue of Atenews. Read it here: https://tinyurl.com/AtenewsTabVol69No3



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