MANILA- Hundreds of jeepney drivers from transport group Piston staged a caravan Monday to protest the government's plan to gradually phase out old jeepneys.
The group converged at the Elliptical Road in Quezon City then motored to the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) to continue their protest.
Piston said the plan to scrap old jeepneys and use modernized jeepneys such as e-jeeps and solar jeepneys will affect the livelihood of drivers around the country and will also result to higher fares for commuters.
Piston Secretary General George San Mateo said the proposed phaseout will greatly affect the lives of some 200,000 jeepney operators and some 600,000 drivers, as well as commuters who rely on cheap fares.
San Mateo noted that jeepney commuters comprise the poorest citizens of the country.
"Milyones ang halaga ng mga sasakyan (modernized jeepneys) na yan, imposibleng manatili sa P8 ang pamasahe kung 1.6 million ang sasakyan mo sa kalsada," San Mateo said.
(Modernized jeepneys cost millions. It's impossible that they will retain the fare at P8 if there are 1.6 million vehicles on the road.)
The protest, joined by more than 100 drivers and 20 jeepneys, created traffic along Elliptical Road and East Avenue.
Hundreds more joined the protest caravan when they staged it at the Department of Transportation (DOTr) headquarters in Ortigas Avenue. They were met by a sizable number of police personnel who blocked the main entrance.
Meanwhile, transport group Alliance of Concerned Transport Organizations (ACTO) did not join today's caravan, saying they got assurance from DOTr Secretary Arthur Tugade since December 21, 2016 that the phase out will be gradual.
ACTO said DOTr has clarified that the phase out will begin with jeepneys whose engines and body are beyond rehabilitation.
The group also believes that the government will provide assistance, through loans, to start up on modernize jeepneys for drivers that will be affected by the phase out.