Whether commuters or the public transport Operators like it or not, change is upon the transportation scene in the Philippines. The awful traffic in Manila coupled with its prehistoric Public Utility Vehicles (PUV) have been the cause of suffering for all commuters. Not only are these vehicles causing a lot of inconvenience to the public, but are also a threat to their health and the environment. This initiative aims to improve the quality of life of the riding public and has been in the government's to-do list for a long time now. However, it's been consistently pushed under the rug because it's bad news for the Jeepney drivers and their operators despite the financial assistance that the government will extend to jeepney operators and drivers making it less of a burden. To understand the context and coverage of this program, let’s break down the real deal behind what jeepney modernization really means.
What is the jeepney modernization program?This is an initiative of the government which will put in new and safer jeepneys on the street and phase out the old and poorly maintained ones. This was initially introduced by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) in 2015. It seeks to minimize outdated (and almost lethal) jeepneys in the streets, boost passenger safety, and prevent pollution by imposing an age limit for transport vehicles that are allowed to operate. According to this resolution by the LTFRB, public vehicle operators will not be approved for a franchise, extend their Certificate of Public Convenience (CPC), increase of number of vehicles, or substitute their vehicles if their unit is more than the minimum age requirement. The unit should not be more than fifteen (15) years old reckoned from the date of manufacture of subject vehicle. Basically, this program isn’t only going to regulate jeepneys that are older than 15 years, but also the buses and other public vehicles in the streets. There are three areas where the program will address:
- New franchising system Compared to the current franchising system where jeepney operators propose the routes of jeepneys, the new franchising system will be fully regulated by the government.
- The routes will be planned by the government.
- Single unit operators will no longer be eligible for a franchise.
- Initially, the minimum number of jeepneys for franchise is 20. By 2019, the minimum number will be raised to 40.
- Standardize income of jeepney driver, provide them with regular employment benefits, and abolish boundary system.
- Improving PUVs to international standards
- Vehicles with combustion engines must have low emissions in compliance with the EURO IV emission standards or better.
- Speed limiters
- Closed-circuit television (CCTV) camera for selected types of PUVs
- Dashboard camera
- Person with disability (PWD) friendly
- Comfortable seats
- Provision of Wi-Fi access
- For buses, standing passengers must not exceed five persons
- Training for drivers
What are the economic implications?The government has earmarked ₱2.2 billion for its transport modernization plan, which will be used to provide subsidy to drivers and operators who will be buying electronic jeepneys. What does this mean to the economy?
- Provide new job opportunities
- Enhance tourism industry
- Streamline public transportation
- Gradually solve traffic condition
- Increase base fare
What’s in store for commuters?It’s a promising initiative aimed at improving the mode of transportation for commuters. Aside from the sleek new jeepneys that can take you from point A to B safely, there are a handful of benefits that the riding public will enjoy when the Jeepney Modernization Program hit the ground.
- Safety and comfort
- Health and environment friendly
- Better payment system
Will jeepney operators and drivers lose?The major reason why Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operation Nationwide (PISTON) and Stop and Go Coalition are against this modernization plan is because they see this initiative as ‘anti-poor’ because it would lead to the loss of livelihood program of small-time jeepney owners and operators. Though, this is true to a certain extent, jeepney drivers will not necessarily feel the brunt of this change. At least, not in a bad way. Why? For jeepney drivers who are merely renting out their jeeps, they will be getting a standard income preset by the government. They don’t have to worry about the monthly amortization of the new jeepneys. At the end of the day, the jeepney operators are mandated to provide them a regular income, not affected by how much the driver is earning per day. The burden on the other hand will be shouldered by the operator who runs a franchise of PUV. The monthly amortization will be a huge financial challenge since each unit despite having a low APR and flexible payment term carries a huge price tag. Almost all the drivers and small business operators cannot afford to franchise the new vehicles.
The high cost of e-jeepneyThis is the part that has caused the outrage in light with the modernization of public transport. These modern jeepneys will cost about ₱1.2 million to ₱1.6 million, which are payable for up to seven years. The estimate for the subsidy of these vehicles is about ₱800 per day or ₱24,000 per month. While this is basically the current boundary rates of jeepney drivers in Metro Manila, operators on the other hand will not be able to profit for a long time if this gets implemented.
Government subsidyTo help PUV operators upgrade to newer jeepneys, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) in September signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) for a ₱1.5-billion loan facility for PUV cooperatives. The DBP will provide loans to cooperatives to finance the acquisition of new jeepneys. The DOTr also signed an MOU with the Land Bank of the Philippines last April for a ₱1-billion financing scheme for individual jeepney operators. The government will be subsidizing ₱80,000 per vehicle purchased by operators or drivers. However, that amount is only about 5% of the total price of these new PUVs and could hardly bring down the monthly repayment, which is the root cause of the outrage from certain transport groups.
Philippines transport scene vs the worldIt’s worth noting that the Philippines has long been left out when it comes to modernization of mass transport, compared to its neighboring countries. As neighboring countries like Malaysia and Singapore enjoy the convenience of a seamless and a more centralized mode of transport, the Philippines on the other hand is still struggling to even implement an accurate amount of fare system (drivers will have to manually and mentally calculate the fare from point A to B). It cannot be denied that it’s high time for us to actually do something about it, not just for the benefit of the commuters, but also for the environment and the economy. For neighboring countries, public transport is run by private but Government Linked Companies, making it easier to streamline upgrades and improvements. Meanwhile, our land transport system is ran by private groups and even individuals, and unsurprisingly, it’s outdated as these groups can’t be bothered to upkeep their vehicles because of the cost. While the modernization of public transport is indeed a welcomed initiative for the majority of the commuters, it is far from perfect. There are definitely rooms for improvement in the areas of job opportunities for those who may get displaced, and also inclusivity to the transport groups so it will not be as financially burdening for them. For the jeepney modernization program to be successful, both parties (the government and the transport groups) must come up with a win-win solution as they hold another round of dialogue in the coming weeks.
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