A few days ago, I went to Metro to get some snacks and coffee since we ran out. The kids didn’t want to go with me because it was scorching hot after lunchtime. I figured I wanted to know what the jeepney phase out fuss was all about. This was my first jeepney ride in over a decade.
In my childhood, our family’s livelihood came from operating public transpo. My parents owned a taxi, bus and of course, jeepney. But seriously, income from Public Utility Vehicles (PUV) isn’t enough. Maintenance costs eat out most of the earnings. My father ran a Cassette, PX and RTW business alongside this that allowed me and my sisters to grow comfortably as well as go to a private school.
I loved riding our jeepney when we went on our weekly Sunday picnics. It was so spacious and legroom was never an issue. The wind brushing my skin was always so pleasant. I imagined that’s exactly how Superman felt while he flew across the sky.
My parents are kind and generous by nature. They allowed the neighborhood kids to hang out inside our jeepney. They even let Marciano, the rugged homeless beggar, to claim it as his sleeping quarters at night with free lunch or dinner which I often delivered once we spotted him taking refuge.
Again, the earnings of a jeepney driver isn’t huge, It’s barely enough to ensure a family’s future. I imagine, it’s even worse now since the price of petrol had doubled rapidly in the last 12 months. I can’t help but wonder how many roundtrips must he make just to break even for a full gas tank. More so, how much money is left to cover cost of living for himself and his loved ones. Doing the Math, he would have to make ends meet as best he could while making sacrifices here and there.
The government is willing to subsidize operators in acquiring an e-jeepney which is good….. YES, but seriously, with inflation and devaluation of the peso, many just couldn’t afford it. The poor will sink deeper into poverty and the rich will get richer. Again, this will bring rise to our endemic economic turmoil of unfair distribution of wealth.
If the government is serious about helping our poor and keeping the trademark of our world-renowned traditional jeepneys, it can start by subsidizing or funding a program that’ll make these jeepneys attain roadworthiness like mandating rich oil giants to refine their products to an eco-friendly level, availability of diesel exhaust fluids; providing them exhaust tip filters used in branded vehicles which will reduce carbon emissions and increase fuel economy; etc. I am sure that petrol companies like Shell, Caltex, Petron, Flying V, Seaoil, PTT and others can collaboratively work on a government sanctioned initiative to preserve their mutual interests.
Then, mandate a PUV lane or route strictly and exclusively for PUVs as we do have so many sidestreets and backroads which could be mandatorily utilized; or truly enforce high-occupancy vehicle lanes just like in Australia, New Zealand and the US.
Options like these are highly cost-efficient and doable. Not only will this help to somewhat “go green,” alleviate the traffic conditions and keep part of our national heritage but also prevent more vehicles from hogging the road to gain income.
Yes, the e-jeepney will offer comfort specially to the elitist but please remember Juan and Petra who couldn’t afford to pay more and try desperately to avoid illness. Remember, Sweat and AC don’t mix well healthwise and we live in an absurdly hot and rainy climate.
I’m afraid of what the outcome would be in 2020. Like the multitude of others, I have no problem riding it. I just feel sorry for the threat on “MAMANG DRIVER” who keeps on driving for 8 hours or more under extreme heat or rain to earn a buck to bring you and me to wherever it is we’re going just to provide for his family.
The E-jeepney mandate is just unfair and ill-thought. There are considerable affordable alternatives. TSK! TSK! TSK!