DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 18 March) – Thousands of jeepney drivers and operators in Davao City will be displaced once the Davao Public Transport Modernization Project of the government is implemented, a progressive group here said.
John Paul Dizon, secretary general of Kilusang Mayo Uno-Southern Mindanao Region (KMU-SMR), told MindaNews on Saturday that drivers and operators will lose their livelihood to the High Priority Bus System (HPBS), a transport modernization project that would replace the aging jeepneys with modern buses and address the problem of traffic congestion.
Under HPBS, low-floor city buses will replace the jeepneys.
Dizon noted that while there are serviceable units of jeepneys and even public utility vans that can pass the roadworthiness assessment of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB)-Davao.
In February 2019, the local government announced the HPBS, then targeted for implementation by 2021, will employ around 1,000 bus drivers.
The number of jeepney drivers in the city then was 7,200.
According to the Department of Transportation (DOTr), HPBS will have 29 bus routes divided into four tiers: MetroDavao will form the core services that connect all major commercial centers along five routes, DavaoInter will run along with eight routes connecting the inner urban areas directly to the Davao Central Business District, DavaoFeeder will run along nine routes linking smaller centers and areas of more dispersed populations to the MetroDavao services, and DavaoLocal will provide a link between the outer rural areas of the city and main transport system or the integrated terminals.
Last March 10, Engr. Ronnel Victor Panigon, focal person for PUV Modernization Program of the LTFRB-Davao, said only those units that are over 15 years old and no longer roadworthy would be scrapped, while owners of old jeepneys that are still roadworthy can keep their units but only for private use.
Dizon said, however, that it would still deprive the drivers and operators of their livelihood as they would be prohibited from plying their usual routes to pick up passengers once the HPBS buses take over.
“The issue here is not whether they can still keep it for private use. What is clear to happen is, our drivers and operators in Davao will lose their source of income,” he said.
Retired Col. Dionesio Abude, head of the City Transportation and Traffic Management Office, said the local government hopes to see HPBS running during the last quarter of 2024.
Dizon said that if old units are to be phased out, local manufacturing firms Sarao Motors and Francisco Motors can supply the drivers and operators with modern jeepneys at reasonable cost on installment basis.
Larry Argiless, spokesperson for Transmission-Piston, said, in a statement on Saturday, that the HPBS would only serve the interest of the capitalists as the country would have to import buses from other countries.
He added that the government should instead support the local suppliers who can manufacture affordable upgraded modern jeepneys.
Abude had earlier said drivers of phased out jeepneys will be prioritized for hiring by operators of the HPBS buses but they will be required to undergo training with the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) to equip them with skills before they can qualify to be bus drivers.
He said the affected drivers can also work as mechanics and other related positions for the maintenance of the units at the terminal depots. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)