No to Jeepney Phaseout Coalition and PISTON announced the two-day transport strike that they would hold on December 4 and 5. The groups also sought the junking of the current Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP) of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and the Land Transport Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) to be replaced by a new modernization program that is not anchored on destruction of the drivers and operators’ livelihood.

As per the October 19 hearing in the House of Representatives held immediately after the transport strike that saw arguably a 90% decrease of jeepneys plying the roads in the country in two days, DOTr officials said that the PUVMP only has a framework for now and not yet a whole program. The document from the government that spawn word wars, propaganda accusations and the two-day strike remains to be the DOTr Deparment Order 2017-011 or the Omnibus Franchising Guidelines, which is only a part of the PUVMP.

In its newly minted website, the LTRFB explained in its page on the PUVMP that is more than just vehicle modernization. The program also included regulatory reforms, such as devolving the function to issue franchises to the local government units (LGUs), conducting studies on route rationalization with the LGUs formulating the route plans.

PISTON and other groups has made public and forwarded propositions to the government for alternatives to the current PUVMP. This is a short discussion of the alternatives forwarded by various groups that are premised on a mass transport system as the long-term plan or goal for the modernization program.

Rehabilitation, mass transport system

PISTON previously branded the government’s modernization program as ‘jeepney phaseout’ and the two opposing sides have yet to agree on the most apt term. PISTON argues that the jeepney units 15 years older represent the biggest chunk, if not all of the current 250,000 units that would effectively be phased out after they would be disallowed to travel the roads and be used for public transport and the livelihoods of drivers by start of 2018.

(In their press con yesterday, PISTON referred to the government’s modernization program as merely a marketing program for instant, compulsory selling of 250,000 expensive vehicles that the government would also spend for P80,000 subsidy each.)

PISTON pushed as part of the fleet modernization to rehabilitate the current jeepneys, as there are in fact no brand new jeepneys for it’s parts are sourced from various sources, hinting also that the drive for subscription to new models are prejudiced against the very nature of jeepneys. The rehabilitation of jeepneys, they said, would also help provide jobs and income to local manufacturers and mechanics.

Instead of providing subsidy for the much-burdensome importation of new e-jeeps and other new model jeeps or minibuses, the government can support local manufacture for subsidizing rehabilitation and constructing more environment-friendly jeepneys.

George San Mateo, PISTON President, said they would understand if a unit is unable to run properly and prove to be a hazard would be phased out, but not all of the current jeepneys in use.

The group also called on modernization anchored on nationalization of an affordable and efficient mass transport system. This, they said, may commence with government taking back control and management of the MRT and LRT from its contractors, as well as improve its operations and delivery of service to be able to address the needs of commuters.

San Mateo said the principal aspect of the mass transport system are the trains. The jeepneys are only feeders and have served to close the gap with the lack of mass transport system in the country. San Mateo added that jeepneys need only be efficient and road-worthy, and their efficiency, as feeders, partly relies on a mass transport system in place.

Palit-jeepney and drivers’ cooperatives

IBON Foundation proposed that the government should just give the drivers and operators the new jeepney units, in exchange for their units that would be phased out (and probably just left to the dumps).

IBON said, “the palit jeepney program can be complemented by an assured regular maintenance program at no or minimal cost to the operator/driver. This should address the added burden of having to be subjected to expensive maintenance for a technology that is still concentrated on a few big businesses.

This palit jeepney program, which can occur in phases, can be done through a program for government procurement of jeepneys based on a scaled-down price through volume. It can be complemented by a program of technology transfer to ensure that a genuine domestic PUV manufacturing sector, not only of body parts but primarily of the main components, is being developed.

The government should also maintain the option of single operators/drivers for franchising. At the minimum, it can restrict corporate fleet managers in cities to only one route. It can also limit franchises to genuine cooperatives or associations composed of small operators/drivers that are already operating. The government should set a fare-setting policy that is not market-based but founded on the principle that public transportation is a service that has to be reliable, safe and affordable for commuters. This rests on the recognition that public transport is a public utility and should not be left to the profit-seeking interest of the market.”

Mass transport system, palit-jeepney

AGHAM – Advocates of Science and Technology for the People presented their position paper on the PUVMP in the Congressional hearing on October 19. The group posited that the PUVMP is not the genuine modernization that can address the transportation problems of the country rooted in the lack of a public mass transport system.

The group first established that “efficient and affordable, safe, reliable, efficient, clean transport services is a public utility which the government has the obligation to provide” and “serving multiple linkages, a mass transportation system is crucial in setting up a dynamic and industrial economy.”

The group could not emphasize the lack of mass transport system in the country any less, saying that the current situation or dilemma is brought about by this lack of development. They said the government should invest in formal mass transport such as rails.

The plan for mass transport system should also serve the needs of national industrialization and rural development, facilitate regional dispersal, and is affordable to low-income working people. This plan would also work towards government ownership of major transport utilities and operation of comprehensive nationwide system of land and sea transport complementing railway transport system.

“Without a clear plan for a mass transport solution for urban centers and rural areas, the government should instead support and subsidize the informal public transport alternatives like the jeepneys which has taken up the slack. The government should not burden the small drivers and operators with expensive alternatives and financing schemes and should instead replace their vehicles with minimal or no-cost to them,” said the group in its position paper.

They reasoned that a palit-jeep program will make the rehabilitation and uptake of new technologies faster instead of putting the burden to the already impoverished jeepney drivers.

In addition, the group pushes that the palit-jeep program should be implemented in the context of an industrial policy. This would develop a PUV manufacturing based on requirements such as genuine local content and not merely localized content.

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