September 6, 2020
Quezon City Relief Operation for Jeepney Drivers
By Daniel Lazar
As part of a three month-long mission to help Jeepney drivers throughout Metro Manila, the Tzu Chi Foundation launched two more relief operations on September 5 & 6. The Quezon City Hall was the venue this time, with Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte attending to show her support for the relief operation. Tzu Chi Foundation CEO, Henry Yuñez, was also on site to coordinate with Tzu Chi members and volunteers.
Hard Hit by The Pandemic
Jeepney drivers have been some of the hardest hit during this pandemic, and they have been unable to earn a living for the past seven months. Upon learning of their situation, Dharma Master Cheng Yen, founder of the Tzu Chi Foundation, was very concerned when Tzu Chi volunteers in the Philippines painted a grim picture of the difficulties Jeepney drivers have faced in the last seven months.
Because of the pandemic, and the resulting lockdown, they have been unable to earn a living and have been forced beg for money from motorists on the roads. As a result, Master Cheng Yen decided to start a relief program at the end of August, aimed solely at assisting Jeepney drivers and their families who have been struggling to make ends meet during these difficult times.
Seeking Local Help
In cooperation with local governments and the Jeepney Operators and Drivers Association (JODA) in each city, the Tzu Chi Foundation launched relief operations to supply Jeepney drivers in need with basic necessities. These include rice & every day essentials like cooking oil, soy sauce, sugar, salt, vinegar, soap, noodles, and other household necessities.
As such, on September 5th and 6th, at the Quezon City Hall, 1,724 Jeepney drivers showed up to receive much-needed support. Mayor Joy Belmonte was on hand to show her support and assisted the Tzu Chi led operation by providing on-site security and transport for the relief goods. The Mayor noted that “this is a Tzu Chi initiative, with the City government providing a list of the JODA members who have not been able to earn a living.”
“I am very thankful to the Tzu Chi Foundation,” she remarked, “and while the city has been helping Jeepney drivers in various ways, it’s been difficult because of the sheer number of those who need help. That is why we are grateful for the Tzu Chi Foundation’s efforts to help our city.”
Love and Care
To organize the relief operations, Tzu Chi members and volunteers took the concept of love and care to heart and reached out to the local government for help in contacting the various JODA leaders. Tzu Chi Philippines CEO, Henry Yuñez explained how “Tzu Chi put a lot of hard work into this operation, especially our volunteers, from coordinating and liaising with the city, to gathering information on the drivers and preparation of relief goods. There was a lot of hard work put in by everybody.”
Tzu Chi member Woon Ng noted how the Jeepney drivers’ dire situation inspired Tzu Chi volunteers to help in any way they could. “We saw the Jeepney drivers who are begging on the streets because they have been unable to work and decided to come up with a temporary solution that would help both them and their families.” She continued saying how “our volunteers were very happy when they saw how happy the drivers were to be receiving this assistance. As Tzu Chi members and volunteers we are very happy for them.”
Helping Those Who Need It Most
Many families have been heavily affected by the pandemic, and while the majority have not been able to find alternate sources of income, others have been forced to mobilize the whole family just to stay afloat. Annaliza Egus and her husband, Jeepney driver Mark Anthony Batucan, live in a rented unit together with their two kids. She came out to receive the relief goods on behalf of her husband, who was able to find temporary work as a delivery driver. However, Annaliza is no longer able to work due to the pandemic and fears of infecting the whole family.
“My husband was forced to stop driving, but thankfully he found temporary work recently as a delivery courier in Binondo, and that has helped a little bit. I can’t work anymore because we need to take care of ourselves from the virus, as we have small children.” She continued by saying that “for a while it was very difficult when none of us was working; we have rent and electricity and other bills to pay. What Tzu Chi has given us today is a very big help, thank you so much Tzu Chi Foundation for giving so much relief goods today.”
The Jeepney drivers’ livelihoods depends on passengers and being able to drive every day, however, due to the lockdown they’ve been forced to beg for money from motorists on the roads. As a result, Tzu Chi members and volunteers will continue to conduct relief operations well into October, to help alleviate the hardships faced by Jeepney drivers and their families.