By Ernie Reyes
MANILA — Senator Risa Hontiveros is calling on the government not to turn a blind eye to the plight of jeepney drivers, who, among other essential workers, have also been hit hard by the pandemic.
“The restrictions on mobility have also resulted in restrictions on our jeepney drivers’ survival and ability to provide for their families’ needs. Ang jeepney na simbolo ng ating kultura ay naging simbolo ng kahirapang dinaranas ng mga drivers sa panahon ng pandemya,” Hontiveros added.
“Many jeepney drivers, some of them senior citizens, have resorted to begging on the same streets where they use to ply their routes. Their children were also forced to drop out of school, while others were evicted from rented houses and forced to live inside their jeepneys. We should not turn a blind eye to them,” Hontiveros said as she turned over food packs to drivers of public utility jeepney (PUJ) in Metro Manila as part of her birthday celebration this year.
Hontiveros turned over food packs to drivers of Lupang Pangako Everlasting Jeepney Operators and Drivers Association Baseco-Del Pan Drivers and UP-Balara Jeepney Association. She personally handed over the goods containing rice, canned goods, hygiene packs, and other food items for children.
“Hiling ko na kahit papaano ay maibsan ang kanilang hirap sa pamamagitan ng ipinadala naming munting tulong,” Hontiveros added.
Hontiveros then urged the government to improve their coordination with the transportation sector as the country is expected to ease quarantine restrictions. This, according to Hontiveros, can help jeepney drivers get back on the road and be able to make a living for their families again.
“Ngayon naman, pinag-uusapan ang pagluluwag sa community restrictions. Basta ipatupad ng ating mga drivers ang minimum health protocols, sana ay maluluwagan na rin ang kanilang pamamasada, lalo pa’t inaasahan na mas maraming manggagawa ang muling babalik sa trabaho at mangangailangan ng masasakyan,” she said.
Early on in the pandemic, Hontiveros had also called on the government to explore service contracting with the transport sector to help ensure ample income for drivers and operators.
“Ibalik natin ang dignidad at sigla ng ating mga jeepney drivers para makabalik sila sa kalsada, hindi para manlimos kundi tuluyan nang makapasada. They are everyday heroes who bring us to our destinations. Ngayong sila naman ang nagdurusa, tayo naman ang maghatid sa kanila sa new and better normal,” Hontiveros concluded. (AI/MTVN)