Modified lockdown dashes jeepney driver’s hopes
MANILA, Philippines — With Metro Manila and the nearby provinces of Rizal, Bulacan, Laguna and Cavite back under modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) starting today, Renato Piad, a jeepney driver who has been out of work since March, expressed his frustration with the government.
He and other members of Airmen’s Jeepney Operators and Drivers Association (Ajoda) had already put up plastic dividers in their vehicles to maintain physical distancing among their riders. They were optimistic that they would soon be allowed to go back to plying the Nichols-Parañaque Integrated Terminal Exchange route after transport officials announced that more jeepney routes would soon be opened with the National Capital Region remaining under general community quarantine (GCQ).
But with the metropolis back under MECQ, the ban on all forms of public transport would be reinstated, covering jeepneys, the Metro Rail Transit 3, both lines of the Light Rail Transit, city buses, UV Express vans, taxis and transport network vehicle services like Grab.
“We were ready to ply our routes then all of a sudden we learned we won’t be going back to the streets because we will be on lockdown again? Is the government just giving us the runaround?” said Piad, the chair of the 300-member Ajoda.
President Duterte on Sunday night approved a Cabinet recommendation to reimpose MECQ in Metro Manila from today until Aug. 18 following an appeal for a “timeout” from health-care workers who were exhausted from dealing with the growing number of new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases.
Jobless for months
While the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board earlier allowed a number of traditional jeepneys to resume their routes on July 3, Piad and most of the Ajoda members have been jobless for almost five months.
He has joined his wife in selling sandwiches, cigarettes and candies on Andrews Avenue in Pasay City. They earn between P200 and P500 a day — far from the P1,000 he used to make from driving his jeepney.
“We have no money left. Some of our members now depend on alms. They should have given us some aid before imposing the lockdown so that we would have money to buy food,” Piad lamented.
The President, however, said the government had ran out of money to distribute to families affected by the MECQ.
“Where did the money go? We jeepney drivers have yet to receive our share from the first tranche, second tranche [of social amelioration funds]. I wish they would just tell us if they don’t intend to give us any money so that we would stop hoping,” Piad said.
If they would be allowed to go back to driving their jeepneys, “we would not depend on or beg on our knees before the government,” he stressed.
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