Earlier today, February 27, various transport groups such as PISTON, Stop and Go Coalition, and No to Jeepney Phase-out Coalition held a nationwide transport strike in Metro Manila to denounce the current version of the jeepney modernization program, which the transport groups believe to be a phase-out. According to PISTON President George San Mateo, the nationwide transport strike also affected “over 20 [other] cities and municipalities across the country.”
Meanwhile, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board has argued that the program is merely a ‘modernization’ that will introduce reliable and environment-friendly jeepneys.
Assessing the program
Under the program, the Department of Transportation (DOT) will be purchasing 15-year-old jeepneys as new jeepneys are deployed to the roads. According to data from DOT, most of the 210,000 jeepneys recorded are already 15 years old.
In contrast to the current scheme where there is one franchise per jeepney operator, DOT also aims to centralize and consolidate the jeepney operators in order “to be more productive.” This way, DOT will be able to establish standard policies and regulations among jeepney operators.
The price, however, for the new jeepneys will cost around P1 million, and the price for a new franchise will cost around P7 million. Transport groups have clamored against the exorbitant prices, citing how the proposed ‘neoliberalist’ policies will eventually strip jeepney operators of their livelihood.
The financial difficulty of acquiring the jeepneys is evident. Transport groups have also argued that despite gaining bank loans, for instance, it will only cause long-term debts for jeepney operators.
“Rehabilitation, not modernization”
Antonio Bailisan, a jeepney driver and member of the No to Jeepney Phase-out Coalition, argues that rather than undergoing a jeepney modernization program in one fell swoop, a better alternative would be to rehabilitate and improve the manufacturing process of jeepneys.
For instance, unlike other public utility vehicles which are assembled in factories, the current process for assembling the jeepneys is usually done in the classic Filipino talyer. A talyer is generally known to lack special tools, training, professional process, as well as cleanliness. Unless the vehicle owner lists down specific instructions, workers in a talyer will also only focus on the immediate problems in a vehicle.
According to Bailisan, the assemblage of jeepneys in a talyer usually costs around P450,000 to P700,000, depending on the parts and additional accessories installed–a stark difference compared to the P1 million cost of jeepneys under the modernization program.
Rather than a modernization program, the transport groups want to push for rehabilitation, particularly in improving the manufacturing process of jeepneys with safer and more environmental-friendly parts.
San Mateo, in the protest held at Mendiola, argues that the provisions in the jeepney modernization program have already been proposed in the previous administration, and that the main focus now should really be in rehabilitation. After the rally, San Mateo as well as other transport groups plan to convene and organize more protests in the future.