MANILA - Around 90 percent of jeepney drivers and operators in the country are "starving and dying" due to loss of income, a transport group president said Tuesday, as government still prohibits them to pick up passengers due to the coronavirus pandemic.
"Sa 100 porsyento, natitiyak ko sa inyo, 90 porsyento nagugutom na, mamamatay na," Zeny Maranan, president of the Federation of Jeepney Operators and Drivers Association of the Philippines (FEJODAP), told ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo.
Maranan said the government ban on public jeepneys is severely hurting drivers and operators who have no other means of income besides public transportation. She warned that some of them are thinking of lawless actions due to desperation.
"Gusto ko po aminin sa inyo na may mga nag-iisip na ng 'di maganda. Pero sa kasalukuyan, lalo na sa FEJODAP, kilala niyo naman kami, hindi kami mahilig sa mga ganyan na kalakaran," she said.
"Pero minsan kapag naiisip mong nagugutom ka na, mamamatay ka na, ano gagawin namin?"
Maranan described the government ban as a "poison slowly killing" jeepney drivers and operators.
"Subukan nila. Sila nga ang pumalit sa'min, sila ang magmaneho, sila ang mag-operate ng maliliit na sasakyan? Matapos ganito ang mangyayari sa kanila, at kung ano ang sasabihin nila sa gobyerno?" she said.
The FEJODAP head said that if government is afraid that the resumption of public jeepney operations may worsen the coronavirus crisis in the Philippines, drivers and operators will fully follow COVID-19 policies like physical distancing, wearing of facemasks, and putting barriers between passengers.
"Ayaw rin namin na mga tsuper namin ay mamatay. Ayaw rin namin na mahawa kami sa mga pasahero. O baka kami ang may sakit at mahawaan namin mga pasahero namin," Maranan said.
Six jeepney drivers, including a 72-year-old, were earlier arrested in Caloocan after holding a protest amid the eased coronavirus lockdown.
An official of the Department of Transportation later said in an interview with TeleRadyo that jeepney drivers and operation will be allowed to continue their operations, but for now, routes for the jeepneys are being studied.
"Papayagan naman. Kaya lang inaayos pa natin ano. For example, 'yung mga ruta na pwede takbuhan 'tas ilang jeep yung tatakbo sa ruta na 'yon," said Alberto Suansing, DOTR road sector consultant.
He added the DOTR is aiming to iron out the routes by June 22.
The department earlier allowed some public buses to resume operations after more than 2 months of lockdown in the capital and elsewhere in Luzon.