What are UP’s plans for commuters amid PUVMP?

Not one jeepney driver from the UP Transport Group (UPTG) has entered into a cooperative, the group’s president Nolan Grulla told Tinig ng Plaridel during their silent strike on Wednesday, Dec. 13.

UPTG is an organization of jeepney drivers from all routes navigating the campus: Ikot, Toki, UP-Pantranco, UP-Philcoa and UP-Katipunan.

This could spell trouble for UP Diliman (UPD) constituents who solely rely on public transport.

Only those who have consolidated and committed to purchasing modernized jeepneys will be allowed to operate their traditional units starting next year. This follows President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s stance on retaining the Dec. 31 deadline for franchise consolidation, as part of the Publicity Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP). 

Vice Chancellor for Community Affairs Roehl Jamon already has two options in mind that would ultimately replace all traditional jeepneys in UPD with modernized ones.

“Number one is to buy our own jeepneys,” he told TNP on Dec. 13. The administrator is eyeing the purchase of 50 electric jeepneys to cater UPD’s entire commuting population. Each unit is estimated to cost between P1.4 to 3 million.

Displaced UP jeepney drivers, he said, will be serviced under the condition that they form a cooperative.

UP will own the jeeps pero their cooperative will have to be in charge of maintaining it, magkaroon ng equal distribution of income,” he further explained.

However, the UP System has limited resources after Congress slashed its 2024 budget by P2.9 billion.

Purchasing 50 units would require the state university to procure at most P150-million worth of e-jeeps. The vice chancellor added that making large purchases could take years before it is actualized.

This is where the second, less expensive option arises. “The more medium-term is to partner with transport cooperatives na meron [nang] sariling modernized fleets and invite them to service the UP campus,” Jamon said.

Grulla was enraged when TNP asked his thoughts about the OVCCA’s plans. 

The UPTG president said that during their meeting with Jamon in October, they were only advised to consolidate. “Ang sinasabi niya ay magkokooperatiba kami pero wala siyang sinabi na bibili [sila],” he exclaimed.

UP jeepney drivers have consistently refused to consolidate because they believe it would entrap them into a financial burden.

The controversial program aims to phase out traditional jeepneys to give way to “safer” and “environment-friendly” modernized vehicles, to be paid for by drivers out-of-pocket. The government is only willing to loan each jeepney driver P160,000.

Drivers are also mandated to be part of a cooperative that has a fleet of 15 or more units before they can be given a consolidated franchise, essentially disallowing single-unit franchising. Transport groups have argued that the PUVMP merely benefits large corporations that have enough capital to comply with the conditions of the program.

Of the second proposal,  the 58-year-old Grulla said: “Kung ayaw nila sa ‘min, walang problema! Kausapin lang kung ano ang dapat nilang itulong dahil ilang taon kaming nagserbisyo [sa UP]. Ano? Para na lang kaming sinipa.”

There is only so much that UPD administrators can do, Jamon reasoned: “I cannot really do anything about the jeeps . . . Hindi ko rin naman pwedeng i-defy ‘yung order ng Malacañang because, after all, [I am a] government employee.

While his office studies which of the options they can take, Jamon is looking to tap the Quezon City local government to temporarily provide shuttle services for UPD students and employees.

Sisiguraduhin ko na walang estudyanteng maglalakad mula Vinzons hanggang Philcoa. ‘Yun ‘yung priority ko,” he said.

Asked if they have started reaching out to the local government, he said not yet. “Wala pa kasi may hope pa rin ako na ma-extend ‘yung deadline,” the vice chancellor responded.

Jamon said that his proposals have reached the ears of UPD Chancellor Edgardo Carlo Vistan II as early as August this year. This was when Jamon was installed as vice chancellor.

Actually, the chancellor didn’t ask me to put it on paper kasi nga baka meron din siyang sarili idea about it,” Jamon explained.

The proposals came as a surprise to USC Councilor Kristian Mendoza who recalled the chancellor’s positive reaction towards releasing a support statement for UP jeepney drivers’ cause during their dialogue on Nov. 28.

A screenshot of the USC’s minutes documenting Chancellor Vistan’s insights on the plight of UP jeepney drivers. Vistan’s parts were highlighted by TNP. Photo from the UPD USC.

It’s kind of worrying na ganyan pala ‘yung sasabihin ni Vice Chancellor Jamon regarding this… The plan to tap yung mga ibang na-consolidate na is a betrayal of UP jeepney drivers,” said Mendoza, who also leads the Community Rights and Welfare Committee of the UPD USC.

USC Vice Chairperson Sean Latorre said that the idea of subsidizing modernized jeepneys for the drivers is a “welcome” thing. However, he said that the administration could have taken a more proactive stance on the PUVMP.

That should have been the stance of the UP admin since the get-go, na makiisa sa drivers at sa panawagan nila na magkaroon ng maayos at makatarungan na transition to modernized vehicles,” he said.

Sixteen days before the impending deadline, the Office of the Chancellor has yet to issue a statement of support.