In fear of livelihood loss, all UPD jeepney drivers ‘forced’ to consolidate

All jeepney drivers from the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman have already consolidated into cooperatives and corporations ahead of the April 30 deadline set by the government. 

Data from the campus’ Transport Management Office showed that all 170 jeepney drivers plying UPD routes have already applied for consolidation as of April 25.

Despite abiding by the order, drivers like Ferdinand Damasco, president of the UP-Philcoa Jeepney Drivers Association, said they were forced to consolidate to save their livelihood.

“Talagang ayaw namin. Kaya lang napilitan kami. Kung hindi kami papayag, paano na yung mga jeep namin kapag natupad na yung sa katapusan? Kasi kung hindi ka mag-consolidate, hindi ka makakabiyahe,” Damasco said.

Forty-seven drivers from the Ikot, Pantranco and SM North EDSA routes have joined the Maroon Riders Transport Cooperative, while 41 others, mostly Katipunan drivers, have consolidated with the Tambucho Transport Cooperative.

The remaining drivers joined other entities like the Sellers’ Cooperative (Selco) and North UP Campus Transport Cooperative, which both have 28 drivers. The Quijano Transport Corporation also welcomed 26 drivers into its fold. 

The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) originally set the requirement of 15 units per route to qualify for a consolidated franchise before lowering it to 10 to accommodate routes with fewer units.

But even with the easing, the UP-Philcoa route, which only has five remaining jeepney units, cannot comply with the consolidation requirement. Instead, they can only join a corporation through a court decision.

The drivers have already submitted to court an application to be included in the Quijano Transport Corporation, said Damasco. The first hearing concluded on April 11, but they fear the case would drag on until the last quarter of the year.

Until the case receives a verdict, UP-Philcoa jeepney drivers are not officially under any corporation or cooperative, making their units “colorum” or unauthorized after the April 30 consolidation deadline.

Sa LTFRB, kung mangharang sila sa katapusan, nasaan ang maipapakita [naming] decision na may tatak? ‘Pag wala, illegal ka. Ang shield lang namin ay yung ibinigay ni Quijano na notice of hearing na katunayan na inaayos ang franchise namin,” said Melvin Ladran, a UP-Philcoa operator.

Unconsolidated units will be given 15 days to ply after the deadline, said LTFRB Chairman Teofilo Guadiz III on April 29. 

Drivers of unconsolidated units caught operating after 15 days will face a P50,000 fine and have their vehicles impounded for three months, based on the guidelines set by the Land Transportation Office.

Despite consolidating, most drivers are yet to hear a clear plan under a consolidated franchise from their respective cooperatives and corporations.

“Nasa bingit pa kami ng tigil-pasada dahil may hearing pa kami. Pero sabi naman ni Quijano, wag kaming mag-alala. Tutulong siya para makapasok kami,” he said.

As to what happens in the long term, Damasco said this has not been discussed yet by officials from the Quijano Transport Corporation.

Meanwhile, Selco chair Herminigildo Laroa expressed his desire for jeepney operators to continue to own their units through an internal arrangement with the cooperative.

“Pangit yung sistema [ng LTFRB]. Paano yung mga operator? Hindi rin naman lahat ng operator nagda-drive. ‘Yun ang income nila, mawawalan ng income yung mga operator,” Laroa reasoned.

The LTFRB’s guidelines for PUVMP mandate operators to surrender their self-purchased traditional jeepney units and single franchises to their cooperatives and avail modernized units with a consolidated franchise per route.

Burden to commuters

Replacing traditional jeepney units with new “modernized” vehicles threatens commuters with higher fares.

Manibela Chairperson Mar Valbuena earlier argued that, to cover the cost of modern jeepney units, the nationwide minimum transport fare should not be lower than P25. This may further increase for UP modernized units given their shorter routes, fewer number of passengers and shorter operating time.

Kung sakali man mag-modern na lahat, ang kawawa diyan ay mga estudyante. Mahal ang pamasahe, 40 to 45 [pesos] kasi wala na silang kompetisyon,” said Virgilio Durban, a UP-Philcoa jeepney driver.

The possible increase in transportation fees also worries members of the UP community like sophomore journalism student Andrea Pauline Naig who commutes every day.

Her daily transportation expenses, currently ranging from P80 to P100, may climb to almost P200 a day if the modernized units’ minimum fares are implemented.

“Sasabihin ko na lang talaga sa mga magulang ko na magpapa-increase ako ng allowance. At the same time, mas babantayan ko yung other expenses ko like yung pagkain ko, kasi nga ang mahal ng transportation,” she said.

In an interview with Tinig ng Plaridel in December, Vice Chancellor for Community Affairs (VCCA) Roehl Jamon mentioned that, should the PUVMP push through, they are looking at either purchasing 50 modernized jeepney units to be manned by current UP jeepney drivers or inviting established cooperatives to provide transport services on campus.

Read: What are UP’s plans for commuters amid PUVMP?

This pronouncement enraged UP Transport Group spokesperson Nolan Grulla, who said they were not consulted by the OVCCA regarding the said options.

The OVCCA, meanwhile, confirmed in an April 17 email that they are still considering both options so long that no announcement is released by the national government.

Although the university is looking into alternative solutions to address the issue, no final decisions have been made yet. We will have to wait until the deadline on April 30 expires and an official announcement from the President of the Philippines is released,” the office said.

Last April 10, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said the April 30 deadline for consolidation of PUVs will no longer be extended. 

Since then, transport groups have staged multiple strikes on April 15, and from April 29 to May 1 as part of their continuing protest against the PUVMP.