A proposal to phase out public utility jeepneys that are more than 15 year old has failed to consider the economic impact of the plan on jeepney drivers, according to Vice President Jejomar Binay.
“While I understand the importance of safety and the rationale behind the thrust of government to replace old units, this policy cannot be implemented in a vacuum without thinking of its economic impact on the affected sector, particularly the jeepney drivers who rely daily on the already meager earnings and the potential demise of the very unit of transportation that has defined Philippine culture,” Binay said on Wednesday.
The proposal came from the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) and the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC).
The Vice President said the traffic mess in Metro Manila that the Aquino Administration has failed to address imposes a burden not only on commuters and motorists but jeepney drivers as well since it results in lower income.
He added that the government should first set up programs to financially assist jeepney drivers to help them acquire new engines before implementing its so-called fleet modernization program.
“We should implement a holistic fleet modernization program that would allow jeepney drivers to replace their old engines with new ones but with sufficient financial assistance from the government. With enough government fund support, the jeepney drivers can replace their old engines without any undue heavy economic burden,” Binay said.
The implementation “only needs political will and compassion for the punlic-transport sector,” according to the Vice President.
He highlighted the significance of jeepneys in Philippine society, describing them as “a living testimonial of Philippine cultural heritage.”
“Jeepneys should be preserved and in fact improved further to maintain their heritage. Jeepneys have become part of our history and their existence is imbued with public interest. Like Manila Hotel, jeepneys have become part of our national patrimony. Accordingly, consistent with the Preamble of the 1987 Constitution, we should conserve and develop such patrimony,” Binay said.
Under the Aquino Administration, the LTFRB has published several issuances mandating the phaseout of public utility vehicles, including Memorandum Circular Nos. 2013-001 and 2013-007 (Phase Out of Public Utility Buses) and 2013-066 and 2014-012 (Mandatory Age Limit for School Transport Service).
While the LTFRB initially clarified that no old jeepneys will be phased out in 2016, it issued a draft memorandum on the phaseout of passenger jeepneys over 15 years old.
Several jeepney drivers’ groups have protested against the plan, insisting that their members were not consulted and that the age of vehicles is not the real measurement of road worthiness.
As alternative, the DOTC has asked the jeepney operators to instead purchase electronic jeepneys, which will be imported from other countries, but without offering any financial support.
The Alliance of Concerned Transport Organizations estimated that the proposal would take out 90 percent of public utility jeepneys in the Philippines since most of the 60,000 units in the Philippines are “surplus” units dating back to 2000 or earlier.
Transport group Piston said around 600,000 jeepneys and 250,000 small operators nationwide will be affected by the phaseout.
Senator Nancy Binay filed Senate Resolution 253 in 2013 calling for an investigation in aid of legislation of this specific matter.
The resolution has not received any positive action or response from the LTFRB.