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ANOTHER MAN’S TRASH, ANOTHER MAN’S TREASURE

The Duterte administration’s Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program is the government’s plan to phase-out and modernize Jeepneys. It is a push for improvement in the country’s transportation system. But is the government considering the livelihood that might possibly be taken from the drivers and operators?

eeThis move for modernization requires the government to take out old jeepney units off the roads and replace them with more environmentally friendly vehicles. jeepney drivers say that they might have problems with payment for new vehicles that are required by the government.

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Although subsidies were provided, it is not enough to pay the loan for the vehicle, possibly putting drivers in massive depth. But if the Government wants to improve the transportation system in the country, why modernize jeepneys instead focusing on improving the management of transportation? Research proves that the country is not yet ready for the government’s PUV modernization program.

Pointing jeepneys as the cause of pollution:

Air pollution was a given reason why the government of President Rodrigo Duterte plans to take all jeepneys 15 years or older off the roads and replace them with a more eco-friendly, minivan-like version that’s bigger, safer and produces fewer emissions. Although modernized jeepneys reduce air pollution in cities, jeepneys are not the sole blame for pollution.

A study by the Manila Observatory (2016), a nonprofit science research institute, found that diesel-fed jeepneys were only responsible for 15 percent of the particulate matter emissions in Metro Manila. Westerman (2018). The President of Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (PISTON) George San Mateo says placing the blame for pollution solely on jeepneys is unfair in a city with so many other vehicles and facilities to consider.

Also, some are still unprepared for the reforms pushed by the Duterte administration. San Mateo says that if the government didn’t impose so many fees, fines and penalties on jeepney drivers and operators, they would have more money to maintain their sometimes dilapidated vehicles.

Low supply and no money

Despite the plan for modernization, Local Government Units (LGUs) say that the country is not ready and it may even put drivers into dept. Department of Transportation (DOTr) Assistant Secretary Mark de Leon recently announced that the agency is targeting to implement the total phase-out of jeepneys by mid-2020, as part of the government’s effort to push for the PUV’s modernization program, but Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) chairman Martin Delgra III said that modernization is still in low gear due to a lack of supplies.

A total of 180,000 jeepneys need to be modernized, and according to Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR) Executive Director Daisy Arago “The modernization program requires operators to own at least 20 Euro-4 compliant jeepneys and to have market capitalization of at least P7 million. The DOTr said the government will contract giant multinational corporations like Toyota and Mitsubushi to locally manufacture the vehicles numbering to about 200,000 by 2020. Each vehicle will cost about P1.2-P1.6 million, to be loaned by the driver payable in seven years at six percent interest.

The government, through a public bank, will cover the five percent but not more than P80,000 financing, and the driver will have to pay the rest. This means that the driver will have to shell out at least P800/day from daily earnings in order to comply with such costly amortization”. They will need to pay P800 a day for 7 years. This will be for a vehicle priced at P1.6 million. Note that the drivers can earn around P600 per day, so they will need to add P200 more to their daily payments. This is the main reason why drivers keep opposing the Modernization Program. Cruz (2017)

Operating the jeepneys

Operating the modernized jeepneys is also an issue when it comes to traffic. “There are certainly downsides. For one, the LTFRB has not provided the public with the regulations that will be followed in the operation of the new jeepneys except to say that cooperatives will be allowed to operate the new jeepney.

The new jeepney is a double-edge sword. Although it will provide more comfortable rides, if operated like the current traditional jeepneys, it will also worsen the traffic situation because now, the new jeepney are designed to be bigger than the current jeepneys and will therefore occupy more road space. But if the new operators of these modern jeepneys are managed and encouraged to change the current way of jeepney operation, then the project will be beneficial to all. The trick is in the way these jeepneys will be operated”. Fianza (2018)

Security of a Job

PISTON National President George San Mateo insisted that they are not against modernizing jeepneys for the safety of commuters and environmental concerns. With the additional features and the forced phase-out of old units, however, PISTON decried the framework of the program as “anti-poor” and a “massacre” of the livelihood of drivers. Jamilla (2018). presidential spokesman Harry Roque stated that the PUVMP of the Duterte administration is not anti-poor, contrary to the claims of some transport groups.

“We assure Filipino jeepney drivers that this initiative of the government to improve our public transport sector will not put them out of business,” he added. “It was not designed to phase out jeepneys. In fact, the program aims to strengthen and guarantee the profitability of the jeepney business”.

Improvements in the country do not only start with the Modernization of PUVs. Although Modernizing jeepneys are steps to improve the transportation system, the evidence at hand shows that the country is not ready for a sudden change in transportation vehicles. It must be a slow progression, with a proper plan that takes consideration to all those involved so that the people can accept and adjust to the changes.

The government should prioritize in supporting the livelihood of the drivers and the management of transportation in the country. Also the discipline of the people and the operators must also be looked into to improve traffic regulation. Overall, please support the jeepney drivers.

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