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Palace denies using COVID-19 crisis to phase out jeeps


Malacañang on Thursday rebuffed speculation that the government was using the COVID-19 pandemic as a justification to take traditional jeepneys off the roads.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the jeepney modernization program, which targets aging vehicles, had nothing to with the COVID-19 crisis that sidelined thousands of drivers.

“Ang modernisasyon ay hindi tinaon sa panahon ng pandemya, wala nga pong nakakita sa kanilang ‘crystal ball’ na magkakaroon tayo ng ganitong pandemya,” Roque said in a briefing.

“Kung maalala ko pa ho, eh 2016 pa po ito, unang taon noong ako ay kongresista pa. Eh iyong taon na iyon, gusto na nga ipatupad ang jeepney modernization pero binigyan na po ng apat na taong palugit,” he added.

Some jeepney drivers have mulled the possibility of setting their units on fire in protest as the government continues to give them a runaround on when they will be allowed to ply the streets again amid the pandemic.

A number of jeepney drivers have also been spotted begging for aid in the streets.

“Sa banta ng mga tsuper na magsusunog ng PUJs at ang sinasabing tinatapatan raw ang modernization at phase out ng jeep sa gitna ng COVID-19 pandemic, wala pong katotohanan na tinatapatan natin ito,” Roque said.

“Hindi namin tinatanggal sa mga tsuper ang kalayaang magpahayag ngunit maaari tayong magpahayag nang hindi nananakot po.”

Metro Manila shifted to a more relaxed general community quarantine on June 1 but the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board said UV express units and traditional jeeps will only be allowed to ply routes in the capital region starting next week.

“Kung kulang po talaga ang masasakyan, kinokonsidera na po ang pagbibiyahe ng mga traditional jeeps basta sila po ay roadworthy,” Roque said. “Kapakanan ng commuter ang aming iniisip, hindi ito usapin ng mayaman o mahirap.” -NB, GMA News

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