WHAT are the first things that come to mind when someone mentions traditional jeepneys?
How about noisy, smoke-belching clunk of metal that weaves in and out of traffic on metro streets and barkers who have a different sense of spatial dimension for starters?
It’s a biased opinion, I know, especially for someone who had taken up walking as a way of life several years ago. But traditional jeepneys do have their uses, otherwise they wouldn’t have lasted this long.
First of all, the majority of Filipinos in major urban areas in the country use them as their main source of transportation. Traditional jeepneys are cheap and convenient. They take passengers to their destinations and back at an affordable price.
Here in Cebu City, they stop to pick up or drop off passengers at any point along their routes. Of course, when a traffic enforcer is around, jeepney drivers suddenly become law-abiding citizens and ignore the desperate knocking or pleas of someone who needs to alight.
Traditional jeepneys emerged as temporary replacements for the modes of public transportation destroyed in the devastation of World War 2 that ended some 75 years ago. And yet, they’ve managed to become permanent fixtures since then precisely because they are cheap and convenient.
When the Department of Public Transportation launched the Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program in 2017, some sectors thought it was the beginning of the end for the “King of the road.”
But it wasn’t. Not really. The target is to phase out and replace all public utility vehicles (PUVs) 15 years or older with modern units that are called beeps or bus-jeepneys with the end goal of “making the country’s public transportation system efficient and environmentally friend by 2020.”
And yet, at the beginning of the year, traditional jeepneys still ruled the streets. That all changed when the Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19), arrived on our shores.
The government was forced to suspend all public transportation to contain the spread of the pandemic in mid-March. It lifted the ban in areas that were later placed on general community quarantine (GCQ), but operators of traditional jeepneys in Metro Manila had to meet stringent requirements before they could deploy their units back to the streets.
They had to secure a certification of road-worthiness from the Land Transportation Office and present a personal passenger insurance policy.
Here in Cebu City, traditional jeepneys will have to wait until the city’s community quarantine status is downgraded to modified GCQ.
Some people are saying the government is using the health crisis to get rid of traditional jeepneys. For me, it’s just doing what it said it would do way back in 2017.