By JHOANNA BALLARAN
My father has been losing sleep the past weeks over the thought of his jeepneys being forced off the road as the government implements its controversial jeepney modernization program.
He has been a jeepney operator for the past 32 years, sustaining our family’s needs. We have relied on these iconic utility vehicles to provide food on the table, even up to now when us siblings have long graduated and found decent jobs. At age 69, Papa believes he can still manage his four jeeps with the help of my mom. “Kahit papaano, nakakatulong pa rin ito sa pang-araw-araw natin,” he would often tell us.
But the past weeks have been uncertain for our family with the looming government plan to phaseout jeepneys, which were once touted as the Philippines’ “Kings of the Road.” We never thought that such day would arrive, or why a “jeep-less” Philippine society was even considered in the first place.
Buying a P2.4-million minibus is definitely not an option for Papa; his jeeps’ income are just enough to sustain the family’s daily needs. “Saan ako kukuha ng pera? Uutang? Maintenance pa lang niyan, lugi na ako (Where will I get money? Through loan? Maintenance alone is already costly.),” he says. Even so, no bank would provide him such loan at his age.
Selling his beloved workhorses is not ideal, too. The modernization program has driven down the prices of jeepneys, with some selling it as junk for a measly P20,000. Letting go of them is essentially killing his livelihood, and that of the six drivers who work with him.
His last resort is joining the nationwide transport strike, as he clung to the hope that the government would heed to his sector’s call to craft an inclusive jeepney modernization program, which should also consider the capacity of small operators like him. After all, he is not against modernization if it would mean better transportation and safety for all.
All his life, my Papa has been running and operating jeepneys. Putting an end to this means of living is not just cruel but inhumane. Forcing operators and drivers to buy expensive vehicles and pushing them to join cooperatives with costly fees are essentially depriving them of their livelihood. What kind of society do we have if we would let this happen?