Surprise jeepney inspection strands UP students

By Janvic Mateo

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UP Diliman Chancellor Michael Tan said many students missed or arrived late to their classes after a number of jeepneys opted not to ply their routes for fear of being fined by the inspectors. UP Diliman USC
MANILA, Philippines — The University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City was caught off guard by the surprise inspection conducted by the Department of Transportation on jeepneys plying inside the campus. 
 
UP Diliman Chancellor Michael Tan said many students missed or arrived late to their classes after a number of jeepneys opted not to ply their routes for fear of being fined by the inspectors. 
 
“(We were) caught off guard. We have mobilized shuttles but (we) need more,” Tan said in a text message to The STAR. 
 
“I am worried many students are missing classes or arriving late. President Duterte might think the students are boycotting,” he added, in reference to recent government criticisms against UP students walking out of their classes to join anti-government protests. 

READ: UP students unfazed by Duterte's threat vs protesters
 
Tan urged the DOTr and the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority to coordinate with the UP administration in case they would implement similar operations in the future. 
 
Dozens of students were seen stranded at jeepney terminals outside the campus after representatives from the Inter-agency Council on Traffic implemented its “Tanggal Bulok, Tanggal Usok” operations as part of the government’s phaseout program for old jeepneys. 
 
“The surprise operations was conducted after Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade received text complaints from UP students during an interview in a radio program that there are a lot of old, dilapidated, and smoke-belching jeepneys roaming in UP,” said DOTr in a statement. 
 
“To assist commuters who were affected by the operations, solar-powered jeepneys were deployed to ferry affected passengers to their destinations,” it added. 
 
READ: Drivers, students hold anti-jeepney phaseout protest in UP
 
But according to the university student council, the 10 solar-powered jeepneys deployed by the DOTr were not enough to cater the demand of the students of the university. 
 
Free bike-share and carpool programs were also implemented to assist the students. 
 
The student council joined other student groups and jeepney drivers in a mobilization to protest the surprise operations and the jeepney modernization program. 
 
“The events today only manifest our concerns with the project, casting aside the welfare and the livelihood of current jeepney drivers without a proper means of transition or compensation. We see that the swift and railroaded implementation of this measure stunts the ability of current jeepney drivers and operators to adapt, endangering their livelihoods,” said the student council. 
 
“At the moment, the continued haphazard implementation of this policy will result in the phasing out of loads of jeepneys, to the point that current modernized prototypes will not be able to catch up, creating a shortage of jeepneys that would also prove detrimental to commuters,” it added. 
 
READ: Why some transport groups oppose jeepney phaseout
 
The student council said that any genuine modernization mechanism should be sensitive to the struggles of the everyday jeepney driver, who is part of one of the most vulnerable sects of our society. 
 
“Any move towards modernization and progress must not come at the cost of the more financially challenged sectors in our society,” it said. 
 
In response, the DOTr said the protest led by students was “unfortunate and unwarranted.”
 
It singled out militant youth group Anakbayan in its response, although other organizations also joined the rally. 
 
“Anakbayan prides itself as a progressive youth organization. Sadly, their actions speak of the opposite. Their actions also do not reflect the majority of our youth, who they claim to represent,” said DOTr. 
 
“Implementing the campaign against smoke-belching public utility vehicles is a tough, but necessary task. It is long overdue. This is an integral part of the PUV Modernization Program, which aims to bring about a comprehensive system reform of the public transportation industry,” it added. 
 
The agency said it is bent on giving the riding public a safer and more comfortable commuting experience, accusing protesters of opposing progress and better public transportation.
 
Protesters are urging the government to ensure that the modernization program is pro-poor, noting that the drivers would not be able to afford the e-jeeps offered by the government.

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