Jeepney drivers face risk of losing work permanently
MANILA—The government ban on jeepney operations in Metro Manila for the past three months has pushed drivers deeper into poverty amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a nonprofit think tank said Friday.
Tens of thousands of jeepney drivers in the metro have lost an estimated P78,000 worth of earnings since mass transportation was suspended, Ibon Foundation said in a statement.
“Many small jeepney drivers and operators could become permanently out of work, particularly in Metro Manila,” the group said.
In Metro Manila alone, there are an estimated 55,000 to 70,000 jeepney drivers. They used to work 6 days a week and earned at least P1,000 daily on a 12-hour shift, Ibon Foundation said.
“This translates to a total net income loss of P78,000 or P26,000 per month of lockdown . . . Out-of-work jeepney drivers lose income with each passing day of transport suspension,” the group added.
While the government provided emergency subsidy to jeepney drivers worth P5,000 to P8,000 under the Department of Social Welfare and Development's Social Amelioration Program, Ibon Foundation said it would not be enough to make up for the drivers' lost income.
Ibon Foundation alleged that the health crisis was being used to fast-track the government program phasing out old jeepney units.
“Under the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB)’s Memo Circular 2020-017 on public transport guidelines in GCQ (general community quarantine) areas, only modernized jeepneys and traditional jeepneys under a corporation or cooperative are allowed to operate,” the group said.
“This leaves out small jeepney operators and drivers who, unlike big or corporate fleet operators, can ill-afford the costly P1.6 (million) to P2.2 million modernized units, or steep fees and requirements to form a cooperative.”
On Thursday, the Palace said traditional jeepneys deemed “roadworthy” may soon be allowed to operate, provided they follow certain health standards.
Difficulty in observing physical distancing was among the main reasons why the ubiquitous Filipino public transport was prohibited from getting back on the road.
Mass transport was suspended in mid-March in an effort to stem the spread of COVID-19. Lockdown measures have since been relaxed, gradually allowing trains, taxi cabs and ride-hailing cars to operate on June 1.
For the second phase in the public transport shift, which will run from June 22 to June 30, public utility buses, modern jeepneys and UV express vans will be allowed to operate, on the condition that people wear masks and observe social distancing.