A Life Without Jeepneys: Filipino Jeepney Workers Face Loss of their Livelihood

A Life Without Jeepneys: Filipino Jeepney Workers Face Loss of their Livelihood

June 19, 2024 | Written by Dimple Paz, Edited by Jovie Galit

Featuring the Story of Michelle and Renato Hiloma, a family of Jeepney Operator and Driver (JOD) in the Philippines

Michelle Hiloma lives in Quezon City with her husband Renato Hiloma Jr. They are Jeepney Operators of two Jeepney units, while Renato also works as a driver. Michelle has Chronic Kidney Failure (Stage 4) and was diagnosed when she was 38 years old, while Renato is a Diabetic. According to Michelle, they don’t have children because they are busy operating the two Jeepneys and earning money to survive daily.

“It's just my husband and I in this life; we don't have kids. When we heard about the PUVMP and the plan to phase out the Jeepneys, it hurt. We had invested in our Jeep; it wasn't just something we bought on a whim. It's what we depend on for dialysis and our medications. If we lose the Jeep, what will happen to us?”, as Michelle Hiloma shared. 

Renato and Michelle Hiloma. Image Credit: Dimple Paz

What impact does the PUVMP have on their means of living?

Michelle's frustration was palpable as she recounted how much the PUVMP (Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program) had affected their livelihood. “Our livelihoods will be gone. It leaves me and my husband with insecurity and fear. The thought of getting caught by the enforcers makes my stress worse and makes the situation worse. I am concerned about the news we are hearing, particularly what LTFRB (Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board) Chairman, Teofilo Guadiz, said about Dragging the Jeepneys. This is stressing me out even more.”

Michelle marked the announcement of LTFRB's crackdown against the unconsolidated Jeepneys on May 16, 2024. Guadiz said that they will strictly enforce the PUVMP and they will start flagging down "illegal" public utility vehicles. The driver of an unconsolidated Jeepney could face a 10,000 PHP fine, their vehicle could be impounded for 30 days, and they may also face a one-year suspension and be charged 50,000 PHP to get their Jeepney back.

Michelle also emphasizes that the hardship is not only in their livelihood, it also affects the ability of the drivers to provide for their families, including basic needs, such as education, food, and shelter.

Image translation: "What will happen to our families?" Image Credit: Kat Candelaria

“Nitong nakakaraang mga buwan, halos kaming mag-asawa ay hindi makatulog dahil sa kakaisip na mawawalan na kami ng panghanapbuhay, sobrang sakit po, sobrang hirap, iisipin namin saan na kami kukuha ng pampagamot naming mag-asawa, ang hirap po magigising nalang kami, pareho kaming nag-uusap na ano ba ang gagawin natin”, Michelle said they could not sleep because of the situation they're in. Michelle and Renato’s livelihoods depend only on their Jeepneys. How could they afford to buy medications without them?

Michelle shares their battle for life: My husband has diabetes and ongoing medication maintenance. I am undergoing dialysis, a costly treatment priced at 1,000 PHP per session— we are still left wondering how we will afford essential medications if our source of income is gone”. Michelle's dialysis aids her survival and costs 8,000 PHP (135 USD) per month. In the new PUV modernization program requirement, operators and drivers are required to shoulder the amount of modern vehicles, costing them over 2.8 million PHP. Michelle and Renato would have had no viable choice in this situation - either to go into deep debt or lose the ability to operate their Jeepneys - both options mean loss of income. 

What would they like to convey to those pushing for the modernization of our Jeepneys?

Michelle reiterates her position on modernizing the Jeepneys. She said that they can modernize without getting into debt. “For poor people, 2.8 million is a huge amount. Forming a cooperative means sharing the earnings, but it also means sharing the burden when some units break down."

According to Michelle, before the consolidation, a jeepney driver only had to meet their "boundary," which was usually between PHP 600 and PHP 1,000 (approximately 12-20 USD) for the day. After reaching this amount, they could choose to rest, especially if their earnings were sufficient for their needs. However, under a more formal setup like a cooperative, a Jeepney driver has to adjust to more specific routes under the concept of fleet management. While this may sound more structured, the costs required is unattainable for many. Michelle added that joining the cooperative is not free. Drivers must pay capital and membership fees. Maintaining a minibus or a modern vehicle costs more than maintaining a Jeepney. The expenses add up quickly, leaving little room for profit. 

If we're discussing modernization, it is possible to upgrade our Traditional Jeepneys, even if the operator owns it. We're ready to bear the costs involved. We don't necessarily need drastic changes like turning it into a minibus just because the roof might be raised.” Michelle added.

What message do they wish to impart to Filipinos abroad, especially those in the Diaspora eager to stand in solidarity with the plight of Filipino Jeepney workers?


Michelle has a plea for Marcos Jr. and various government agencies. Urging the president to heed the voices of the poor, expressing concern for operators and Jeepney drivers. Michelle told us that each Jeepney Phaseout is equivalent to two families facing unemployment, leaving children's education and infants' welfare in danger.

“Sa atin naman pong LTFRB, sana po ay maawa naman po kayo, hindi yung maya’t maya ay naglalabas nalang kayo ng balita. Maysakit po ako, sobrang stress na po ang ginagawa ninyo sa amin. Hindi naman po makatarungan ang ginagawa ninyo. Sino naman pong operator ang kukuha niyang mini bus, ang mapapala lang po dyan ay mababaon kami sa utang. Sa ating DOTR, sana po maging bukas sana ang puso niyo sa aming mahihirap, lalong lalo na po sa kagaya ko na may sakit, dyan lang po kami umaasa sa hanap buhay namin na Jeepney na yan”, Michelle ended.

For the LTFRB, I hope you will have mercy. Do not just release unattainable regulations and announcements. I'm sick and you're putting too much stress on us. What you are doing is not just. Which operator will take the mini bus? The only thing that this will ensure us is debt. To our DOTR, if you are even listening, I hope your hearts will be open to us poor, especially those like me who are sick. That's the only thing we depend on for our livelihood, that Jeepney.

Who exactly will benefit from the PUVMP?

According to the Ibon Foundation, the PUV modernization program is for the wealthy businessmen and transportation corporations. Not for small operators and drivers. Not for those who dream of improving the Philippine transportation sector and its services to passengers, and not for Michelle and Renato Hilomas. The strikers are still right: oppose the PUV modernization program!

What can Filipinos in the diaspora do to oppose the attack on the livelihood of Jeepney Operators and Drivers, such as Michelle and Renato Hilomas? Here are some resources to engage in:

  • Learn how to debunk some common misconceptions about the PUV Modernization Program.
  • Support Filipino Jeepney workers and engage in some important calls to action for Filipinos in the diaspora.
  • Learn about the call #NoToJeepneyPhaseout and the impacts of PUVMP on Jeepney workers through this educational discussion and resources by Pinay Collection, Inklusibo, and Tanggol Pasada Network.
  • Contribute to the transport worker movement in the Philippines by supporting Piston.
  • Support our fundraiser and merch collection in solidarity with Filipino Jeepney workers here.

May we help our fellow kababayans call for worldwide support against the economy-destroying PUV modernization program. May the story of Michelle and Renato help us understand that Jeepney workers are not against modernization. What Filipino transport workers are demanding is a nationalist, progressive, and pro-people transport system. They want every Filipino to have access to fair livelihoods and accessible modes of transportation. Ultimately, they’re calling for a just and thriving life for all.

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