Swerving back to traditional: Some jeepney drivers say modernization favors operators

Anna Cerezo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 26 2023 04:12 PM | Updated as of Feb 27 2023 01:10 AM

Jeepney drivers hang around their rented garage in San Andres, Manila in June 2022. FILE/George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News
Jeepney drivers hang around their rented garage in San Andres, Manila in June 2022. FILE/George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — Ferdinand Limbaga swerved back to plying routes with a traditional jeepney after driving the modern counterpart for two years. 

When steering the wheel of the latter, Limbaga explained the most he would earn in a day is P1,000.

“May bracket kami diyan, may quota. Halimbawa, P5,500 kita mo, mag isang libo lang [ang i-uuwi]. Pag P5,000 ka lang, meron ka P900. Pag P4,500, mayroon ka P800. Pag P4,000 lang gross mo sa maghapon, P600 lang sweldo mo,” he explained. 

“Hindi sapat. Mangupahan ka ng bahay. Magbayad ka tubig, magbabayad ka kuryente. Papaano budget-in [ang] isang isang libo sa isang araw? Sa isang linggo, apat o limang araw lang ang biyahe,” the driver added. 

Limbaga argued he earns several hundred pesos more when driving a traditional jeepney since he can pocket whatever he makes after hitting the P600 boundary. 

“Kasi minsan kumikita P1,300… Mababa oras din. Pwede ka umuwi. Diyan (modern jeepney) may oras. Bumalik ako sa jeep, medyo angat nang kaunti,” he reasoned. 

He went on, “Kung sa akin lang, maganda tong tradisyunal. Sa modernized mas pabor sa operator o driver-operator.” 

Arturo Trigu, a driver and operator of a modern jeep, meanwhile attested that joining a cooperative or a corporation was favorable. 

“Sa biyahe mas ginhawa ang modernized jeep. Saka na problema sa maintenance kasi co-op. May buwanan na tinatangap, P10,000.” 

Some operators, however, remain hesitant. 

Rommel De Guzman, a driver and operator of a traditional jeep, has been plying the roads of Caloocan City for over a decade. 

He, however, shared his last trip will likely be on June 30, when the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) phases out the traditional vehicle.

Earlier this week, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) announced operators of traditional jeepneys, as well as UV Express and multicabs, will no longer be allowed go back to the streets after June 30, unless they join a cooperative or a corporation.

While he is not against the government’s initiative, de Guzman explained the transition would break the bank.

The driver-operator reasoned he is yet to recover financially from the fallout of the pandemic as well as the series of oil price hikes in the previous year. 

“Hindi namin alam paano hulugan 'yun at the same time [na mayroong] personal na gastos sa araw-araw — mga bills, emergency funds in case [may] mangyari sa 'min. 'Dii kami insured,” he stressed. 

Based on the LTFRB's latest tally, only 61% of the targeted 158,000 jeepney units have consolidated. 

Several commuters fear their commuting woes will worsen if the numbers are not met. 

“May mga jeep, 'di na nga magkasya minsan ang mga tao. Rush hour pumipila pa bago makasakay. Dalawang oras. Paano pa pag wala?” Veronica Tanyente said. 

LTFRB, however, assured there won’t be a transportation crisis. According to Joel Bolano, head of the agency's technical division, they are also preparing a contingency plan. 

“The board will have another meeting next week to discuss the details of the contingency. Nabanggit ko naman na meron na nalatag si board to anticipate, but the details will be under discussion,” he stated. 

Bolano went on, “Definitely ang target number wala dapat gap. Kasama 'yun sa i-evaluate ng board — 'yung compliance from March until June para sa contingency or guidelines.” 

LTFRB promised they are looking into the concerns of the operators as well as the drivers.

In the meantime, the agency encouraged operators to join the industry consolidation to literally keep the wheels of their vehicle turning. 

“Consolidation is the first step. Pag consolidated, they will operate a unit whether modernized or traditional. They will operate until December then another component will be issued,” Bolano clarified. 

“Ang assurance lang ng LTFRB: they will continue to operate as long as they comply with the next policy guidelines.”