#TamarawsGiveBack: FEU students call for online support vs. December 31 deadline

FEU Advocate
December 29, 2023 10:02

When December comes around, streets are usually decorated with Christmas lights, crowded with busy shoppers, and overflowed with Holiday spirit. This December though is a bit different for a lot of Filipinos due to transport strikes held by transport groups Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (PISTON) and the Samahang Manibela Mananakay at Nagkaisang Terminal ng Transportasyon (SMMITT), commonly referred to as Manibela, ahead of the Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP) and the jeepney phaseout.

The PUVMP initially started in 2017 by the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) aiming to give a comfortable life for all Filipinos through providing a safer, more efficient, affordable, and environmentally sustainable transportation system in the country by replacing jeepneys older than 15 years with newer environmentally-friendly vehicles that run on Euro-4 instead of diesel. 

Although on paper this sounds like a good step for transportation in the country, the main concern with PUVMP surrounds our local jeepney operators and every single Filipino commuter.

 One of the steps for the PUVMP is to achieve franchise consolidation, but this opens a lot more problems than it does solutions for PUV operators. 

Manibela chairperson Mar Valbuena said that franchise consolidation is the first step to having the jeepney phaseout. PISTON also released a statement saying that franchise consolidation takes away each jeepney operators’ individual franchises. They are not just referring to the phaseout of jeepneys, but the phaseout of their incomes, jobs, and livelihoods.

The deadline for PUV operators to cooperate with franchise consolidations is this coming December 31, less than a week away. This is why they are on strike, even if it is the holiday season, even if these PUV operators are meant to be spending time with their families – their lives are at stake because of the PUVMP.

Tam-finals stopped at a red light 

With Far Eastern University (FEU) closing off the first semester with finals week, it is time for the Tamaraws to go home and celebrate the holidays with their families, but the transport strike has brought in more problems for students aside from just their grades and reports. 

Upon announcement of transport strikes last December 14 and 15, the same week of the FEU finals week, this led to some classes and exams having to be moved the following week due to the strike.

Tamaraws and their final exams being affected by the strike is a reflection of how much the PUVMP affects millions of people, not just PUV operators.

It is understood though why these strikes are happening. This is not a simple discussion focusing solely on jeepney modernization, it is way more than that. This jeepney phaseout extends to the livelihoods of our jeepney drivers, and how it affects the daily commuter, student, and Filipino. 

Caroling for a Cause

Despite the struggles faced during finals week, FEU students show support to our fellow jeepney and PUV operators during this holiday season.

In an online post published on the One Piyu Community (OPC) Facebook group, a group of Tamaraws called for action and initiative for FEU students to #TamarawsGiveBack in support of PUV operators during the transport strikes on December 22. 

Sumali sa #TamarawsGiveBack initiative ng mga kabataan to support the ongoing transport strike! (Join the #TamarawsGiveBack initiative of the youth to support the ongoing transport strike),” Romarie Relator, a second-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing student, student-leader, and Anakbayan student-activist, said in the post.

The post was complete with photos of Tamaraws handing out flyers while caroling holiday songs around neighboring streets of Morayta and a scannable QR code for donations.

On going ang welga ng mga tsuper sa iba't ibang bahagi ng bansa upang ipawanagan ang pagtutol sa nakaambang jeepney phaseout. Kahapon nangarolling tayo para magbigay suporta sa mga jeepney drivers na naka onstrike hanggang December 31 (The strike of drivers and operators all around the country to voice voice their opposition of the impending jeepney phaseout. Yesterday, we went caroling to give support to the jeepney drivers who are on strike until December 31),” Relator further mentioned.

The nursing student shared her opinion on the transport strikes and PUV phaseout stating that the PUV modernization program is a neoliberal policy pushed by the government. In the name of false modernization due to existing jeepneys being forced to be replaced with new imported vehicles costing around PHP 2.5 to 2.8 million.

“This all means that the PUVMP is a business scheme; contrary to what Marcos Jr. likes to project, the majority of drivers, operators, and commuters will not benefit from this program. The series of transport strikes of drivers, operators, and commuters are just for the anti-people corporate capture in the guise of fake modernization,” the student-leader shared.

Their Fight is our Fight

“The fight of our drivers and operators against PUV phaseout is also our fight for mass transportation,” Relator stated.

When asked about the importance of youth, specifically Tamaraws, showing support for PUV drivers and operators, Relator stated that youth solidarity is critical in the fight against the PUVMP. Without the franchising of PUV operators, there will be no jeepney drivers, which will lead to millions of commuters who rely on jeepneys lacking public transportation. 

“This holiday season, the season of love and of giving, what more can Tamaraws do than to live up to the FEU core values through showing support against the PUV phaseout,” the student-activist said as she calls upon fellow students to take stand during the festive season, embodying the true spirit of being FEU students.

There are many ways for anyone to show support during this time. Relator shared how joining demonstrations is one way of showcasing our solidarity, whether community strikes or large-scale actions. Another would be to join discussions and talks that address the situations, root causes, effects of the PUVMP, and how to amplify their calls and voices. The last would be through financial support and donations. Relator shares that PUV operators on strike give up days of income to protest for their livelihoods. 

“Recently, driver and operator-led mobilizations resulted in 100% paralysis in different jeepney lines throughout the country. While the Marcos Jr. administration remains deaf, the continuous action of the Filipino people is the key to winning the fight against the pending PUV Modernization Program,” Relator shared.

With the December 31 consolidation deadline and 2024 coming in only a matter of days, the least we can do as students, commuters, and Tamaraws, is to support our tsuper-heroes. As we are counting down the days until the new year, millions of Filipinos are continuing to fight for their livelihood and their jobs. Continue to share, continue to donate, continue to support, because these PUV operators never stopped to get us to where we needed, and now it is our turn to help them get to theirs.

-Angelo Copon