By Gaea Katreena Cabico (philstar.com), Sep 27, 2017
MANILA, Philippines (First published Sept. 26) — Jeepney operators and drivers will only fall into deeper poverty should the government’s public utility vehicle modernization program, which includes phasing out old units, push through.
Transport groups Stop and Go Coalition and Piston (Pinagkaisang Samahan ng Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide) stressed this point, saying they support rehabilitation of the public utility vehicle sector but oppose a phaseout of the venerable jeepney, an icon of the post-war era.
“Malinaw na ‘anti-poor’ ito at ang mga mayayamang negosyante ang magtatamasa sa programang ito,” Stop and Go Coalition president Jun Magno said.
He said small operators and drivers cannot afford to take on new loans to buy new vehicles. This, despite the government promising to make P1.5 billion in financial assistance available so transport cooperatives and corporations can upgrade their fleets.
“Hindi kami papayag na magkaroon ng panibagong utang. ‘Yung kita nila ngayon [napupunta na] sa maintenance, pamilya,” Magno, whose group held a transport strike on Monday, said.
Transport groups opposing the modernization of jeepneys also warned that the current minimum fare of P8 would go up if the government program pushes through.
Under the government’s modernization program, old jeepneys — those older than 15 years — will be replaced by electric-powered or Euro 4 compliant vehicles. Euro 4 is a set of emission standards on particulate matter, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons.
Jeepneys on the road are powered by Euro 2-compliant engines.
Other proposed specifications for the improved public vehicles include closed-circuit television cameras, a GPS navigation system, automatic fare collection system, dash cameras and Wi-Fi.
The PUV modernization program seeks to phase out old and dilapidated jeepneys and replace them with high-quality transport systems that are environment-friendly and have greater capacity.
The program is also seen as a solution to decongest the traffic-choked streets of the country.
It was officially launched on June 19.
During the launch of the program assistance to transport corporations and cooperatives, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade, however, said the reform in road-based public transportation is “not-anti poor.”
Tugade said the program “is not designed to phase out jeepneys or the jeepney business. It is actually designed to strengthen [and] to guarantee the profitability of this jeepney business to move on and go on.”
Financial assistance amounting to P1.5 billion will be given to transport corporations and cooperatives to purchase new PUVs.
The DBP Program assistance to Support Alternative Driving Approaches (PASADA) will lend money to transport cooperatives and corporations.
PASADA’s key features are the 5-percent equity for vehicle purchase, 6-percent interest rate and seven-year repayment period.
The eligible borrowers of the program include transport companies and cooperatives, which have been qualified to receive franchise under the Omnibus Franchising Guidelines.
Under the Omnibus Franchising Guidelines, individual jeepney operators will not be granted a franchise if they are not part of a cooperative or consortium.
But Magno’s Stop and Go does not see the loan facility as a solution.
“Pinipilit po tayong mga operator na pumasok sa programa nilang modernization o phase out at ang ipapalit ay ang kanilang e-jeep, solar jeep o ang modelong may makinang Euro-4 na ang halaga ay P1.4 to P1.6 million na ipapautang daw ng Land Bank sa mga operator ng PUJ na huhulugan ng P800 a day at ang lumang jeep natin ay babayaran na lang ng P30,000 [na] salvage fee,” he said.
Magno added: “Kukunin na ang jeep natin, ibabaon pa tayo sa utang.”
George San Mateo, Piston president, said in a Radyo5 interview on Monday that the program will lead to killing off small cooperatives and single-unit jeepney operators. He said the government wants to replace small operators with larger corporate-type franchisees.
Failed transport hike
On Monday, a transport strike was staged by jeepney drivers and operators protesting against the phaseout of old commuter vehicles.
During Stop and Go’s press conference last week, they expected 100 percent participation of jeepney operators and drivers in the strike.
It, however, failed to paralyze transportation in Metro Manila and nearby provinces.
LTFRB Spokesperson Aileen Lizada said the transport strike had “very minimal” effect. She said the only areas affected were Commonwealth, Litex, SM Fairview and Sandiganbayan in Quezon City.
Stop and Go Coalition called off the planned second day of the transport strike.
This was the third transport strike organized by the Stop and Go Coalition.
Transport groups Piston, Federation of Jeepney Operators and Drivers Association of the Philippines, Alliance of Concerned Transport Operators, Land Transportation Organization of the Philippines, Pasang Masda, Alliance of Transport Operators and Drivers Association of the Philippines and others did not participate in the strike.
Piston said Monday that it is planning a nationwide strike next month.
Stop and Go and Piston criticized FEJODAP, ACTO, LTOP, Pasang Masda and ALTODAP for supporting the government’s modernization program.
Magno warned that they will reorganize and set up a bigger transport holiday if that is what it takes for President Rodrigo Duterte to listen to their pleas. Last month, the group’s petition to stop the government’s modernization program was denied by the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 18