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CEBU, Philippines – For more than 20 years, partners Maricris Cantiveros and Rolando Baclohan have struggled to make ends meet with the latter’s daily earnings as a jeepney driver.
Baclohan earns at most P700 a day, plying the streets of Cebu as early as 5 am until as late as 10 pm. Cantiveros does her part in their family by working as Baclohan’s conductor and taking care of their four children who are also doing their best to finish school.
Due to low their income, the couple have kept on pushing back their plan to have a simple wedding, though they still hold on to the hope of tying the knot someday.
When news of the Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP) came out, Cantiveros felt sad for her husband who believed that this government move was going to be “another round of taking out loans”.
Recently, the national government gave jeepney drivers and operators until December 31 to consolidate themselves into cooperatives or corporations.
As the cost of modern jeepneys can reach up to P3 million, these cooperatives and corporations will have to take out huge loans to buy these units.
Many transport groups like the Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide (PISTON) have organized numerous protests against the modernization program, alleging that this pushed the burden of modernization onto drivers and operators who earn only minimum wages.
“Kung dili na mi kadagan inig January, magunsa na man lang ang amoang mga anak (If we can’t drive in January, what will happen to our children),” Cantiveros told Rappler.
As PISTON held its nationwide transport strike on Thursday, December 14, Cantiveros donned a blue PISTON Cebu shirt to show her support for her significant other and to fight for the demands of other jeepney drivers and their families as well.
Death of livelihoods
For PISTON Cebu council member Danilo Gato, the December 31 consolidation deadline will mark “the death of livelihoods”.
Gato explained that many drivers and operators in the country relied on their retirement benefits, financial support from relatives working overseas, and loans to purchase their own jeepneys.
He added that if the drivers and operators would be pushed to modernize, they would have to bear most of the financial burden that comes with it.
At present, the government has promised to shoulder only up to P360,000 for the purchase of each modernized jeepney unit.
The nationwide transport strike pushes through in Cebu as more than 100 members of PISTON CEBU lead protests in Cebu City.— John Sitchon (@TheJohnSitchon) December 14, 2023
Danilo Gato, a PISTON CEBU council member, told Rappler that the PUJ consolidation will be the death of the livelihoods of poor operators and drivers. pic.twitter.com/tVoV2tvuBc
Gato said that once January comes and jeepney drivers and operators who haven’t consolidated will be barred from the streets, their children studying in schools will be the first to feel the impact.
“Maayo kaayo ta muingon nga ang atong kabatan-onan ang paglaum sa katilingban apan naunsa naman ning paglaum nga mahikawan man,” the council member said.
(We’re so good at saying the children are the hope of our society but what has happened to this hope now that it has been denied) – Rappler.com