“Whatever twaddle they claim, the current jeepney operators will not be able to survive the fleet management and consolidation ordered in the Omnibus Franchising Guidelines.”
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – Thousands of jeepney drivers and operators are set to join a planned “big transport rally” on February 19 in protest of the ongoing jeepney phaseout. From different parts of Metro Manila and nearby provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Rizal and Bulacan, leaders of transport associations said they will gather at Welcome Rotonda in Quezon City, hold a program, then march to Chino Roces (Mendiola) Bridge near Malacañang.
“February 19 is a day of protest to make Duterte and his administration accountable for the destruction of livelihood of jeepney drivers, operators and assemblers, and its harsh effects on commuters,” said George San Mateo, national president of Pinagkaisang samahan ng Tsuper at Operytor Nationwaide (PISTON). Their group is supporting the February 19 transport rally to be led by the No To Jeepney Phaseout Coalition.
The transport protest is “just a rally and not a strike,” the local transport leaders said. They clarified that they are after jeepney modernization, too, but the government’s program is “just a grand marketing scheme”, not sustainable, and will make transportation costlier to the riding public.
Rooting for genuine modernization of jeepneys
The government’s jeepney phaseout program is premised on a positive note of seeking an environmentally healthy alternative to the current jeepneys. But to the local drivers’ groups, it is just a smokescreen. Same with the “road-worthiness” standards sought by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board in apprehending drivers under their oplan “Tanggal-Bulok, Tanggal-usok”.
“Tanggal Bulok- Tanggal Usok is just a marketing scheme for selling new jeepneys,” San Mateo said. He said the current action of the government is itself proof that it is not really after road-worthiness and that it just wanted to force the introduction of corporate owned, imported and costlier jeepneys. In Baguio City, a member of PISTON spent up to P600,000 rehabilitating his jeepneys to comply with the LTFRB’s Oplan Tanggal-Bulok requirements.
But “No matter how much you’ve complied with the listed requirements, your jeepney is set for phaseout by 2021,” San Mateo said.
Even if your jeepney gets registered this year, it can only run as public transport till end of 2020.
‘Govt lacks moral ground to insult ‘dilapidated’ jeepneys given its decrepit MRT‘
The local leaders of No To Jeepney Phaseout Coalition also chided government transport officials for being all high and mighty at disparaging the “bulok” (dilapidated) jeeneys. Yet, as San Mateo said, the government has no moral ascendancy to insult jeepney operators considering that the government is bungling the running and maintenance of the Merro Rail Transit System (MRT3).
“Between the MRT3 which has public funding, and the jeepney transport system which is being maintained by small operators out of their own pocket, and against government policies that impose taxes, oil price hikes, numerous fines, the government has no moral high ground to disparage the “bulok” (dilapidated) jeepney,” San Mateo said at a press conference.
The jeepney transport system originated at the end of World War 2. The need for mass transportation and the absence of government investments drove Filipino ingenuity to produce and run jeepneys out of abandoned military jeeps.
The Marcos dictatorship ordered the conversion of jeepney machines from being gasoline-run to diesel-run to avert protests against the spiking prices of gasoline in the 70s to 80s, San Mateo recalled. But the diesel-run machines are more pollutive. Given the continuous price hike in oil, spare parts, government fees and fines, which are all traceable to government policies, San Mateo said the result is the state now of jeepneys.
“The government has not contributed in producing and maintaining the jeepney transport system. On the other hand, the government is armed with public funds for maintaining the MRT3, yet it continues to be hobbled with technical problems even on the second year of the Duterte administration,” San Mateo said.
Jeepney Rehab and genuine modernization instead of phaseout
The No To Jeepney Phaseout Coalition appealed for support to their cause saying the government’s so-called modernization program is not sustainable, affordable nor really for modernizing the transport system.
“Whatever twaddle they claim, the current jeepney operators will not be able to survive the fleet management and consolidation ordered in the Omnibus Franchising Guidelines,” San Mateo said. The local operators have complained that their small jeepney operation will be eaten up by corporations as dictated by the Omnibus Franchising Guidelines (OFG).
Instead of this OFG, they are demanding a new one where the current drivers and operators will not lose their livelihood. Instead, they hope their transport system will be enhanced with subsidies such as in rehabilitating the jeepneys so it runs better and cleaner.
It should be sustainable, too, said San Mateo. The government “modernization” program is largely import-dependent, he said. The Philippines had all the needed raw materials for manufacturing vehicles. What it lacks is the technology, according to San Mateo. The government can remedy that by making vehicle manufacturers build their plants here and allow for technology transfer after a few years. That is, the Philippines shouldn’t just be an assembler but a manufacturer of vehicles.
Eileen Lizada, Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) Board Member, had previously told reporters that the new jeepneys will be made here, but apparently, only external parts will be assembled here. San Mateo said it will be sustainable if the Philippines would manufacture the machines and chassis here and not just the body and the peripherals.