Commuters and PUV drivers can simultaneously breathe a little sigh of relief as the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) announced that UV Express and traditional jeepneys will be allowed to operate again starting next week.
LTFRB Chair Martin Delgra announced this at a hearing of the House Committee on Metro Manila development. He says that UV Express will be given slots starting Monday, and that they are to be followed by the traditional jeepneys.
No word yet as to when the slots for jeepneys, dubbed as the Hari ng Kalsada (King of the Road), will be opened and be allowed to start picking up passengers again. This is because of the two-phase resumption of public transport hierarchy followed by the LTFRB and the Department of Transportation (DOTr). (Read: Here’s How You Can Help Jeepney Drivers Affected by the Lockdown) The first phase is where point-to-point buses, TNVS, taxis, and tricycles will be allowed to resume operations, while the second phase is where modern jeepneys and UV Express are finally allowed.
The traditional jeepney is at the lower portion of the hierarchy as its front-facing seats, even though far enough apart, was deemed risky when it comes to spreading the virus. Because of this, and the quarantine itself, traditional jeepney drivers lost their source of income for over three months.
These drivers, fondly called manong or kuya by commuters, then resorted to asking for alms on the streets. It broke the hearts of many and angered some, saying that these drivers, who have brought so many passengers to their destinations, are not given enough help and attention. Some even said, “dati sila yung pinapara natin, ngayon sila na ang pumapara sa atin.”
Just recently, a group of jeepney drivers who were peacefully asking passersby for food or money was arrested for “breaking quarantine protocols.” Called the Piston 6, jeepney drivers Elmer Cordero, Severino Ramos, Wilson Ramilia, Ramon Paloma, Ruben Baylon, and Arsenio Ymas Jr, were arrested and had to sleep in jail for more than three days.
The groups was eventually let out, as many have helped by donating for their bail while some, like 2019 Bar topnotcher Diane Azores, worked on expediting their release.