BAGUIO CITY – Public utility jeepney operators and drivers in Baguio City and Benguet are one with their counterparts nationwide against the planned phase out of jeepneys. But rather than joining the nationwide transport strike last week, they held a protest march to air their stand.
Armed with gongs, placards and tarpaulins, members of transport groups Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide or PISTON – Metro Baguio, Baguio-Benguet Movement Against Phase-out of PUJs and the other operators and drivers association in Baguio City and Benguet marched to the Department of Transportation (DOTr)-Cordiller a Regional Office and staged a peaceful program to call on the government to stop the government modernization plan to phase out 15-year-old and older public utility jeepneys and replace them with modern and environment-friendly vehicles.
PISTON-MB President Carlito Wayas said that the jeepney modernization plan to phase-out jeepneys will deprive many drivers and operators of their livelihood.
“The plan to replace our old jeepneys is a way of oppressing us, the small jeepney operators and drivers, which will ultimately deprive us of our livelihood,” Wayas said.
About 8,000 jeepney operators and drivers in Baguio and Benguet will be affected if the order will be released any time. Aside from costly, electric jeeps are not feasible due to the terrains in the city.
DOTr Regional Director Atty. Jose Eduardo Natividad faced the rallying drivers and operators and thanked them for not staging a transport strike in Baguio City and Benguet. He listened to their sentiments and positions then explained to them that there are no department orders or moves for the DOTr to phase-out jeepneys.
“The modernization plan is still being studied and there are no department orders to move for the phase-out of jeepneys. I know there is a draft, anything can happen,” Natividad said.
He urged the transport groups to submit their position paper to be reviewed by the agency together with the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board and promised he will personally submit the same to DOTr Secretary Art Tugade./JDP/RMC- PIA CAR#