People from all walks of life have been direly affected by the ongoing Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic—from business owners and corporate executives to construction workers and street vendors. One particular sector, however, is in critical condition with the constraints and limitations posed by the ECQ—public transportation. The suspension of general public utility vehicle operations has left frontliners with limited or no access to daily transportation.
Jeepney Kings is a recently established modernized jeepney fleet operator backed by investment from local entrepreneurs Enrique Gonzalez and Rajan Uttamchandani, and Hong Kong-based financier Francis “Bing” Zhou. When Elmer Francisco, CEO and chairman of 1111 Empire Inc., maker of Francisco Passenger Jeepneys, asked for assistance in helping small fleet operators and frontliners combat the COVID-19 crisis, the company immediately responded to his call to arms.
Jeepney Kings rolled-out 10 units of PUVs manned by 17 jeepney drivers called TsuperHeroes in a humanitarian transportation project called “Elmer’s Run,” named after Francisco. These TsuperHeroes take shifts of eight hours each for a 24-hour operation to provide free transportation for frontliners and health workers in coordination with some Local Government Units (LGUs). Eventually, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) followed suit and asked other manufacturers to help as well. DOTr issued permits from the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) for the vehicles and IDs for the TsuperHero drivers in order to provide 24-hour free transportation unhampered by government checkpoints. This effort would not only help small jeepney operators, drivers and assemblers so they would not lose their livelihood in the midst of the pandemic, but also to ferry health workers and frontliners for free to their medical facilities and workplaces.
Among the routes being serviced by Elmer’s Run are PGH Manila-Kalayaan Avenue Route, The Medical City Ortigas Route, Parañaque-Las Piñas Route, Caloocan-Quezon City Route, Taguig-Pateros Route, Luzon-wide relief operations of MRRD-NECC and also the Oplan Hatid of UP Los Baños in coordination with the Office of Civil Defense.
This endeavor also aims to provide temporary employment and livelihood to PUV operators and drivers who all of a sudden found themselves unemployed and unable to even buy food for their families during the lockdown. Francisco initially engaged the Baclaran-Nichols Transport Service Cooperative represented by its leader Reynaldo Liwag with the support of Izupart Caloocan and they immediately started operations.
Since there are no fare collections, the salaries of drivers and fuel expenses will come from Francisco’s own pocket and from the company’s coffers, but such is certainly not enough to support everyone in the initiative.
To boost the initiative, Francisco would seek the help of his fellow members of Rotary Club of Makati West, which coined the project “Elmer’s Run.” Nine other Rotary Clubs followed suit, namely: Rotary Club of Makati San Antonio, Rotary Club of Makati East, Rotary Club of Makati Ayala Triangle, Rotary e-Club of Global City, Rotary Club of Parañaque Metro, Rotary Club of Parañaque Merville, Rotary Club of Muntinlupa East, Rotary Club of Las Pinas and Rotary Club of Las Piñas Camino Real through the efforts of Rotary District 3870 Governor Ador Tolentino.
Aside from providing free transportation to frontliners and health workers, Jeepney King’s and Elmer Francisco also provided free food for health workers at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), which is the Department of Health’s primary COVID19 testing facility. The team, through the efforts of the Rotary Club of Makati West, also provided 25 rooms in a nearby facility to house 50 RITM health workers so that they need not travel very far just to sleep and go back to work on the following day.
Jeepney Kings also distributed relief goods to ‘TsuperHeroes’ jeepney drivers who were suddenly unemployed. The team also helps the Department of Social Welfare Development (DSWD), the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) and MRRD NECC to fast track their distribution of relief goods to those who need them most.
The project snowballed and attracted other supporters, such as Ray Jarina of Isuzu Inteco who provided one Isuzu Class 2 PUV to the fleet and helped organize the donation of face shields, disposable bedsheets, robot ventilators, robot alcohol dispenser and personal protective equipment (PPEs), which were distributed to various hospitals within and around Metro Manila.
The Jeepney Kings fleet and TsuperHero drivers have made these fast deliveries of essential items and free transportation services possible, especially for our modern-day heroes, our frontliners and health workers facing the COVID-19 pandemic.
Other individuals and companies who are willing to support this endeavor are welcome to contact +639173011199 via Viber, WhatsApp or Telegram.