General Admission

Jeepneys must return to restore normalcy

By Al S. Mendoza

 

OUR jeepney drivers are up in arms.  Just right.

They’ve gone virtually hungry since the pandemic hit the world in March.

With driving as their only means of livelihood forcibly stripped away, they are desperate.  Devastated.

When hunger pangs attack, laws don’t matter.  Chaos, anarchy even, might erupt.

That’s a truism parallel to water not rising above its source.

Seeing their jeepneys deactivated, our drivers have resorted to the unthinkable, like begging in the streets for food and money.

Already, six drivers in Caloocan City got themselves arrested for that, spending days in jail in the absence of bail.

Actually, not only are our jeepneys banned from the roads nationwide but also buses, taxis and even trains in Metro Manila.

Thousands whose lives are tied to public utility vehicles, from Laoag up North to Liguasan down South in Cotabato, have been deprived of life’s basic necessities, specifically food on the table, with complete relief seemingly nowhere in sight.

The jeepney grounding is a bitter pill to swallow, so to speak, even as it was meant to help quell the virus menace threatening to immobilize humanity itself.

This was the result of the government’s imposed policy for our population to observe social distancing.  Strictly.

Social distancing, or physical distancing, means maintaining at least a distance of six feet between people in a public place or in a crowd-prone area.

The health protocol was to help avoid spreading the virus, which had already claimed thousands of lives worldwide and put millions in sick bay the last four, five, months now.

But a ray of hope had peered from the horizons when transport officials declared last weekend that the jeepneys will be back within the week.

The announcement came amid threats by operators to burn some 17,000 jeepneys, citing “discrimination.”

“Since the government doesn’t seem to want our jeepneys anymore as a public transport,” said Zeny Maranan, “we might as well bring them to the LTFRB offices and burn them all there.”

Zeny is the feisty president of FEJODAP (Federation of Jeepney Operators and Drivers Association of the Philippines).

The LTFRB (Land Transport Franchising and Regulatory Board) is the government agency regulating the operation of jeepneys in the country.

While buses and cabs have already adopted practical changes to maintain distancing among passengers, our jeepneys seem to find it hard to introduce modifications acceptable to LTFRB.

Plastic curtains as dividers inside jeepneys seem OK at the moment.

Since jeepney passengers sit face-to-face, they may now perhaps face a wall—possibly made of glass or synthetic see-through plastic?—while on board.

Anything is possible, indeed, for as long as there is a will to do it.

We’ve already gone to the moon, remember?

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