Let the Jeepney Modernization Program Push Through for Good

Despite the government effort to provide the public with affordable means of transport in the form of modernized jeepneys, the likes of PISTON continue to being the obstructionists and opportunists that they are. They would rather let members of the commuting public continue to ride at their unsafe jeepneys while they rake in profit. 

The seemingly unending debate on the need to modernize the jeepney, the king of Philippine roads for 70 or so years now, does not seem to stop. Last September 30, 2019, several transport groups, led again by the Far Left Pinag-isang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operators Nationwide (PISTON), staged another nationwide transport strike to still denounce what they call “an anti-poor jeepney phaseout program” despite the fact that the government has already laid several programs on how the modernization program and gave jeepney operators more than enough time to avail of such. As a result, some local government units (LGUs) across the country are forced to suspend classes in preparation for the transport strike while also mobilizing the necessary resources to assist stranded commuters, especially during the morning and evening rush hour.

The jeepney remains to be the most common and most affordable means of public transportation for many Filipinos. However, through the years, the jeepney is gaining more notoriety from commuters, who tend to avoid riding in them when there is the opportunity to do so.

Most jeepney manufacturers use surplus truck engines that consume large amounts of diesel fuel and release toxic fumes into the air. For the jeepney body and chassis, the usual materials are substandard steel and welded iron, both which are brittle and will easily crumple or break. Vehicles safety features such as seatbelts are either lacking or weak improvised ones. These and the inability of most drivers and operators to properly maintain their vehicles turned present-day jeepneys into a major cause of air pollution, and a safety hazard to both drivers and commuters.

At the same time, most jeepney drivers tend to be rude to or cheat their passengers in giving back change and have tendency to do road rage whenever they compete against other jeepney drivers or when triggered by other drivers on the road. They also do not follow traffic rules, either because they are not aware of them or they simply ignore them to meet the boundary, a day's worth of earnings that will be deducted from them by operators they will take home after meeting a specific number of trips. Worse, some jeepney drivers do not care about the safety of the passengers from either accidents or crime, or are even in cahoots with or are criminals themselves.

The government, led by the Department of Transportation (DOTr), is embarking on a jeepney fleet modernization program in response to public clamor for a safer, more environmentally friendly, more fuel efficient and more organized but still affordable means of transport. The program’s is to replace older jeepneys plying the country's roads within a few years' time with new minibus-like vehicles that are made of stronger materials that can withstand impact, and wear and tear; greater but comfortable passenger capacity due to an increase in the number of seats with a new arrangement; and are equipped with more fuel-efficient and environmental standards-complaiant Euro IV engines or powered by electric batteries, Beep Card electronic payment system, wi-fi connection, seatbelts and other vehicle safety features, and cameras inside and outside the vehicle.

Alongside the upgrading of the jeepney itself comes an improvement in the earning capability of drivers and operators, especially small-scale ones who operate one or two jeepney units, as their income will increase to the introduction and eventual operation of new models.

Drivers who work under an operator will now be paid a regular salary and accompanied by government-mandated benefits, as the boundary system will be eventually scrapped.

As repeatedly mentioned publicly by DOTr officials and representatives, the jeepney fleet modernization program will be undertaken by the government on a gradual basis. Jeepneys that are 15 years or older must be taken out of the streets soon or they will be impounded by the government. Small-scale jeepney driver-operators, those who operate one or two jeepneys and have limited financial resources to purchase brand-new modernized jeepneys, will be assisted by the government through credit programs being offered by state creditors Land Bank of the Philippines and the Development Bank of the Philippines.

The government, through the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is also exploring the possibility of providing incentives to manufacturers for them to come up with better modern jeepney models and help small-scale jeepney driver-operators afford the said vehicles.”

Despite the government effort to provide the public with affordable means of transport in the form of modernized jeepneys, the likes of PISTON continue to being the obstructionists and opportunists that they are. They would rather let members of the commuting public continue to ride at their unsafe jeepneys while they rake in profit. It is quite obvious that they only think of themselves and not welfare of the majority, which goes against the fact that they are there not to be profit-oriented entities but to provide Filipinos with a service in the form of a safe, efficient, environmentally-friendly and organized public utility vehicle.

If PISTON and its allies will keep on doing what they are doing, which is to abuse democracy in order to obstruct and railroad the jeepney fleet modernization program, it is high time for the government, after being exercising patience and giving them more than enough chances for years, to proceed with the modernization of Philippine public transport without them. The DOTr and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) should go after those who took part in the strike, arrest the leaders and charge them with economic sabotage, and completely cancel their franchises to operate and driver’s licenses. There should be no room for obstructionist and opportunist forces in the effort to provide the Filipino with a real efficient, effective, safe, clean and environmentally friendly means of public transport such as the modernized jeepneys.

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About the Author
Benedict is an agricultural economist, academician and writer. He has gained experience and expertise in various fields of economics, business, political science and public relations after through professional ventures in the academe, and in the public and private sectors. He has authored or co-authored key publications on topics ranging from agriculture and food security to global affairs and politics.
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