On August 24, Cavite and Las Piñas jeepney drivers and operators staged a “noise barrage” while driving along Bacoor and Zapote roads. A press release from Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) Cavite stated that the act was “symbolic of their clamor to resume all jeepney routes and resist jeepney phaseout.”
Known as the “Busina Para sa Balik Pasada,” the program was organized by the Alliance of Cavite-Las Pinas Drivers and Operators (Accelerator) and BAYAN Cavite, with concerned Cavite and Las Pinas citizens joining the drivers’ plight.
The program was also carried-out last June 1, when members of the Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (PISTON) protested Land Transportation and Franchising Regulatory Board’s (LTFRB) decision to only allow select operators to work, if said drivers were only able to meet the requirements of the agency. Additionally, they were to only work along routes approved by the Department of Transportation (DOTr).
According to their press release, BAYAN Cavite recalled how the lockdown, which began last March, deprived the drivers of their livelihood, and the public of any form of convenient transportation. They highlighted how the different “quarantine protocols” became hindrances for the drivers to seek work.
“Travel to and from work became especially burdensome as the working people are struggling to have a decent living amidst the pandemic,” they said in a statement.
Accelerator leader Ka Marvin mentioned in the same statement that the national government “attacked and abandoned” jeepney drivers during the pandemic.
“As we face the Covid-19 pandemic, we also suffer from the abandonment and attacks of the cold-hearted, oppressive and traitorous Duterte regime,” he said.
The statement discussed further that due to the impoverished state of the drivers, both Accelerator and BAYAN Cavite organized relief operations for them and their families. BAYAN Cavite spokesperson Manny Asuncion pointed that these efforts were simply to aid those affected, as they continued to protest for better care.
“Relief operations have their limits. They are mere palliatives that we take while we demand for our betterment. But our joint actions, whether in protests or in donation efforts, clearly show that we can achieve something as long as we unite,” Asuncion said.
The statement ended with Asuncion declaring that the citizens and operators of Cavite and Las Pinas can no longer rely on the government, due to them being proud of suppressing the sector.
“It is high time that we do away with the main cause of our suffering, that we do away with Duterte’s tyranny and plunder,” Asuncion said.
Although the recent noise caravan did not come face-to-face with police, past mass actions ended differently. Last June 1, six jeepney drivers were jailed in Caloocan for allegedly disobeying the quarantine ban on mass gatherings, after they attended a rally organized by transport group PISTON.
The arrest came amid evidence of the rallyists following social distancing and the usage of masks. While all of them have already been released as of writing, two of those jailed have contracted COVID-19 while in custody.
Modernization as a roadblock
One factor that limited jeepney operators was Memo Circular 2020-017, a guideline for public transportation for areas under General Community Quarantine (GCQ), which imposed that only jeepneys that meet specific requirements from the agency are allowed to work.
Ibon Foundation mentioned that in the first three months of the Luzon lockdown, jeepney drivers lost around P78,000, with drivers only receiving P5,000 to P8,000 in government subsidies.
The statement highlighted the jeepney modernization program, wherein units that were deemed obsolete will be replaced with more advanced electric vehicles. This move was seen as unpopular among the sector, due to the high cost of modern jeepneys permitted by agencies such as the LTFRB.
“This program has been controversial as it affects drivers, small operators and commuters. It is also expected to deepen the country’s dependence on imported electronic jeepney parts and units, and increase the national debt burden,” they continued.
While both alliances pointed that none of the groups are against the idea of transport modernization, they derided the government’s decision to push for “eventual corporate monopolization of mass transport” which would limit the independence of each franchise.
“This pandemic, however, has further exposed that corporatization and monopolization of the transport sector are the real objectives behind the government’s fake modernization program,” Ka Marvin added.
Despite government agencies insisting to push forward with the jeepney phaseout, studies show that the new electric vehicles may serve as incubating grounds for the virus that causes COVID-19.
“Even before [COVID]-19, Accelerator has received reports about members of so-called jeepney cooperatives who complain that they have practically lost their franchise and their rights in using their units as the monopolies gained effective control over them,” BAYAN Cavite added.
Accelerator also cited the proliferation of modern jeepneys under the Tolfetana Corporation and the Alabang Transport Service Cooperative as franchises made on questionable grounds and routes in Cavite and Las Pinas. [P]
Photo from BAYAN Cavite