Various transport groups gathered for a protest against the government’s Public Utility Vehicle (PUV) Modernization Program last July 17 at various places in the country such as Metro Manila, Pampanga, and Zambales. Some of the transport groups involved were Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide (PISTON) Partylist, United Transportation Federation of Makati (UTFM), Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), and Manilakbayan.
The protest sought to junk the government’s plan of modernizing old PUVs, which include buses, vans, and jeepneys. According to those part of the protest, the PUV Modernization Program may affect more than 60,000 jeepney drivers in the National Capital Region. The Department of Transportation (DOTr) cited that there are over 180,000 public utility jeepneys which make up 57 percent of overall PUVs.
Under the PUV Modernization Program, PUVs that are more than 15 years old will be phased out and replaced with vehicles that have “low carbon and low-emission technology.” Jeepneys are claimed to be the biggest source of carbon dioxide emission in Metro Manila. Other components of the program include a revamp of the current design of jeepneys, change in the franchising system, implementation of new routes, and training of PUV drivers.
According to DOTr Secretary Arthur Tugade, most jeepneys in Metro Manila have substandard quality and do not meet safety and environmental standards. The Modernization Program aims to replace Euro 2 engines with either Euro 4 engines or solar panels on the roofs of jeepneys.
Last June 27, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) also unveiled in a press conference some possible designs for the modern jeepney. The designs, however, are not yet final and will still undergo consultations until August 2017 before being forwarded to the DOTr. By September, the government will choose a manufacturer who will begin producing the vehicle. As of press time, Toyota Motors Philippines Corporation and Mitsubishi Motor Corporation have signed up for the program.
Apart from the complete phase-out of old PUVs, the program will also adhere with the new Omnibus Franchising Guidelines (OFG). According to Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) Chairman Martin Delgra III, the hundreds of franchisers who are currently handling varying numbers of PUVs are found to be ineffective. Through the program, the LTFRB seeks to consolidate all franchisers by forming cooperatives and corporations.
The OFG also mandates the change of transport routes nationwide through the cooperation of local government units (LGU) and the Department of Interior and Local Government. The LGUs will be proposing the transport routes, which will then be forwarded to the LTFRB for revisions and approval. Once completed, the proposals will be consolidated in the Local Public Transport Route Plan of the LTFRB.
Other government units such as the Department of Finance, Department of Budget and Management, and Metropolitan Manila Development Authority are also involved in the PUV Modernization Program in terms of financing the operators, allocating budgets, and enforcing regulations, respectively.
In light of the components of the program, PUV drivers will also undergo training sessions which include the technicalities of driving, responsibilities as PUV operators, safety measures, and proper etiquette when dealing with passengers. However, despite the program’s aim to provide higher standards for PUVs, various transport groups, especially jeepney operators, condemn the program and accuse it of being a “neoliberal attack” against PUV operators.
Operators air grievances
Throughout the protest, drivers and operators did not miss the chance to voice out their petitions and need for support from the president. The protest was initially held to urge President Rodrigo Duterte to stop the government’s PUV Modernization Program. They purposely carried out the protest in Mendiola because the area is closer to Malacañang Palace.
UTFM Head and jeepney driver Leo Hernandez thinks that the program is “wrong,” and that it will only negatively affect their jobs. He argues that there is no need for the proposed importation of PUVs as they will just increase the overall spending of the people. Instead, he calls on the government to focus their attention on the improvement of the current vehicles, because some only need rehabilitation and are still in good working conditions.
Antonio Bailisan, a jeepney driver and member of the No to Jeepney Phase-out Coalition, echoes this statement and proposes that rather than undergoing the program in one fell swoop, a better alternative would be to rehabilitate and improve the manufacturing process of jeepneys.
For instance, unlike other PUVs 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.
On the other hand, Hernandez states that he and his fellow operators and drivers are not entirely against the idea of the PUV Modernization Program. Although he perceives the benefits of modernizing the current jeepneys, he insists that those in power should change their views and consider the views of the masses as well.
“Dapat may proper consultation,” Hernandez stresses. “Three hundred [na katao] raw ang nagpunta para sa consultation dati pero sapat na ba ‘yun para mag-represent sa amin? Ang dami-daming sasakyan at mga driver. Kung sapat ‘yun, e ‘di dapat walang protesta ngayon.” (There should be proper consultation. It was said that 300 people went to the consultation, but is that number enough to represent us? There are a lot of vehicles and drivers. If it were enough, then we wouldn’t be protesting today.)
He adds, “Hindi ito personalan, at hindi ko inaatake ang gobyerno. Gusto ko lang namin na gumanda ang buhay naming lahat, natin lahat, at buhay ng kinabukasan.” (This is nothing personal, and I am not attacking the government. All we want is a good future for ourselves and for everyone.)
Prior to the protest last July 17, other nationwide protests were held last February 27 which tackled the same program. In both occasions, classes in various schools and colleges were suspended due to the fear of the lack in public transportation. The leaders of the transport groups have reiterated that if the government does not heed their complaints, more protests may be staged in the future.