For almost 8 months, 41-year-old Ronilo Gahator and more than 500 jeepney operators have struggled to survive the pandemic being unemployed and with minimal cash aid to support their families in the province of Cebu.
Tired of the situation, Piston Cebu and its member-jeepney drivers staged a rally in Mandaue City Tuesday, November 17, demanding the return to the original routes in the province of traditional public utility jeepneys and tricycles.
“Hapit na walo ka buwan hangtud karon kay wala pa gyud kabalik ang mga traditional na jeepneys. Gutom na gyud ang mga driver ug ang panawagan namo sa estado kay kinahanglan na pabalikon na gyud ang mga jeepneys kay sayod man ta nga mao ra ni gisaligan sa mga kaigsuonan natong driver para mabuhi ila pamilya! ” said Gahator, vice chairman of Piston Cebu.
(Almost 8 months now and traditional jeepneys have not yet returned. Our drivers are hungry and our call to the state is that jeepneys must return as this is what our brothers rely on to help their families survive!)
Like many jeepney drivers in Mandaue City, Gahator is his family’s breadwinner. In this pandemic, he has difficulty finding a steady source of income that would put food on the table and provide education of this high school kid.
He said it was difficult to get a permanent job because of lack of education. He was unable to finish elementary. Most jobs in the city require an educational background, something most jeepney drivers, like him, did not have.
“Sauna, maningkamot lang gyud ka kay maka-income man gyud ka pero sa pag-abot sa lockdown kay wala na jud,” said Gahator.
(Before, if you worked hard you could make income but when the lockdown arrived, it all went away.)
He said he was lucky because he had his siblings who helped them. The same could not be said of his other friends at Piston Cebu.
Piston Cebu is demanding the following: free mass testing, the complete yet gradual return of jeepneys nationwide, the junking of jeepney phase-out, and the postponement of “pending fines” enforced by local government units in Cebu.
According to Gahator, the government has done little action to help them transition under the Jeepney Modernization Program. He said the government was giving in to the demands Chinese companies and ‘exploitative capitalists’.
“Sakit palandumon nga sa kataas nga panahon nga giantos sa mga driver, hatod-kuha sa mga pasahero pero wala giila sa estado ang mga jeepney drive,” added Gahator.
(It hurts to be reminded that for the longest time that drivers have struggled to bring passengers to their destinations, the state could not acknowledge the jeepney drivers.)
Meanwhile, Cebu City is among 3 of the major LGUs in Cebu which has gradually reopened jeepney routes and has set guidelines and protocols for the “Balik Pasada Program.” However, only a quarter of 5,000 jeepneys will be allowed to operate in the city.
Cebu City now also provides free swab tests. These are currently available at the IEC Convention Center and Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center.
In a phone interview, LTFRB Central Visayas Director Ed Montealto said that LTFRB-Central Visayas had recommended a 100% return of jeepneys in the province. He said there would be a consolidation process to help give the latter common cooperative and safety benefits.
“For a minimum of 15 units, pwede nana sila muform og cooperative kay para masecure ang ila safety. Once ma consolidate ni sila, duna sila’y common garage, common maintenance og duna pud safe management,” said Montealto.
(For a minimum of 15 units, they can form a cooperative so that their safety can be secured. Once they are consolidated, they will have a common garage, common maintenance, and safe management.)
Montealto explained that if Piston Cebu members would like to engage or find employment, they may participate in the Cebu City government’s “jeepney task force.”
Should affected jeepney drivers not be allowed to return to their previous routes soon, Gahator and others like him would be forced to go through the pandemic with even fewer means to help their own families.
“Wala man mi supak sa kalamboan pero luyo sa kalamboan nga ilang giingun, asa dapit ang kalamboan nga ang mga dislokar nga mga driver wala man gani kapahimutangan sa ila? Giuna lang ang plano nga phase-outun pero walay alternatibo nga padulngan ang mga kaigsuonan nga driver!” Gahator concluded
(We’re not opposed to development. But is there genuine development in their version where there is no place for displaced drivers? They’ve prioritized the plan to phase-out [jeepneys] without a livelihood relocation plan for our fellow drivers.) – Rappler.com