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Ako na komyuter at ang mga nakikibakang tsuper

Ni Nuel M. Bacarra

Minsan na akong bumaba sa dyip nang hindi nagbabayad ng pamasahe, dahil sa halip na ilaan sa bayad ang barya mas minabuti ko noon na ibili ito ng sigarilyo. Pero nakonsensya rin ako. Umu-ukilkil sa isip ko noon ang kanta ng grupong Sinaglahi na pinamagatang “Piso” na nagsasabi ng ganito:

“May problema na naman ngayon, pare/Tataas na naman ang pamasahe/Ingat ka lang sa pagsakay/Baka may kakilalang malibre/Ang piso mo kapag ika’y kinulang/Kung minsan ay tumatalon na lang/Hoy, pare ko, huwag mong gawin ‘yan/Ang tsuper ay kawawa naman”

Kaya sa sumunod na nawalan ako ng pamasahe, nilakad ko na lang mula Orthopedic Hospital sa may Banaue, Quezon City papuntang Muñoz St. sa San Andress Bukid, Maynila.

Bitbit ko ito hanggang ngayong may laban ang mga tsuper kontra sa pakanang “modernisasyon” ng mga dyip.

Pakana, di programa

Hindi modernisasyon ang tunay ng layon ng Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP). Kung ang mga pampasaherong dyip ay papalitan ng mga “modernong dyip” na aangkatin pangunahin sa China, mas palalakasin lamang nito ang organisadong sindikato ng mga mamumuhunang importer na siyang mas pinapaboran ng gobyerno.

Dagdag na suson ito sa pasanin ng mga tsuper na karaniwang apektado ng di makontrol na gastusin sa krudo o gasolina, maliban pa sa pang-araw-araw ng pangangailangan ng kanilang pamilya. Ang malala pa, papatayin ng pamahalaan ang kabuhayan nila.

Dagok din ito sa mga komyuter na tatamaan ng paglala ng krisis sa transportasyon na ibubunga ng pagkawala ng mga tradisyunal na dyip sa kalsada.

Ngayon pa lamang, may petisyon na sa Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) na gawing ₱15.00 ang minimum na pasahe sa dyip mula sa kasalukuyang ₱13.00. Mula ito sa ₱8.00 minimum bago ilunsad ang PUVMP noong 2017. Mababawasan din ang opsyon ng masang komyuter ng pagpipiliang abot-akayang pampublikong transportasyon.

Sinamantala ng gobyerno ang panahon ng pandemya para paralisahin ang mga ruta ng dyip sa buong bansa at tuluyang tanggalin ang ibang ruta para bigyang katwiran ang paglalako ng programa. Sa Metro Manila, 215 sa kabuuang 900 ruta ang nawala na apektado ang halos 24,000 na dyip ang di na nakabyahe pa nang matapos ang mga lockdown noong pandemya.

Sa karanasan ng Sarao Motors noong dekada sistenta at otsenta, 50 hanggang 60 dyip ang nagagawa nito sa loob ng isang buwan. Bumagsak ito sa isang dyip na lamang ang nayayari sa loob ng apat hanggang anim na buwan dahil na rin sa proyektong PUVMP. Masyadong mahal ang mga “modernong dyip” na karaniwang nariremata lamang dahil di makabayad sa utang ang mga may-ari nito. Aabot ng halos ₱2.8 milyon ang halaga ng modernong dyip kumpara sa tradisyunal na dyip na umaabot lamang ng hanggang ₱800,000.00.

Bakit tinututulan?

Sa pinakasimpleng dahilan, nilalabanan ng mga tsuper ang PUVMP dahil hindi nila kakayanin ang napakalaking halaga ng bawat diumanong modernong dyip. Uutangin nila ang ilang milyon sa bangko na may 6% interes na dapat mabayaran sa loob ng pitong taon at halos 6% din lamang ang ambag ng gobyerno bilang subsidyo.

Sa ilalim ng programang ito, batay sa kwentadang iniharap sa konggreso, kakailanganin ng mga tsuper/opereytor na kumita ng ₱6,000.00 – ₱7,000.00 kada araw para siguradong mababayaran ang bagong dyip at sapat na maitaguyod ang pangangailangan ng pamilya. Noong 2023, ang kabuuang abereyds na kita lamang ng mga tsuper sa isang araw ay ₱2,500.00 – ₱3,000.00. Babawasin pa rito ang gastos sa krudo, gastos sa pagmantine, atbp. Sa isang tingin pa lamang sa mga numero ng ito, pangita na papagurin ng husto ang mga tsuper sa pamamasada.

Inoobligang pumasok ang mga tsuper/operyetor sa konsolidasyon ng prangkisa na mahigpit nilang tinututulan dahil hindi na nila hawak ang pagmamay-ari ng sasakyan. Sa iskema ng PUVMP, ang mga nagkonsolida ng prankisa ay ipapasok sa isang kooperatiba o korporasyon at ang mga tsuper ay tatanggap ng sahod bilang manggagawa.

Hindi tutol ang mga progresibong tsuper/opereytor sa modernisasyon. Ang tinututulan nila ay ang pagsamsam sa indibidwal na prangkisa.

Ang kaibuturan ng programang ito, ang gobyerno ang ahente ng mga korporasyon na walang hahangarin kundi ang pumiga ng tubo mula sa mga manggagawa nito.

Pabalat-bunga ang malasakit ng programa para sa kapaligiran dahil umaangkop umano ito sa panawagan sa buong mundo ng pagbabawas ng carbon emission dahil ang makina nito ay ‘di na kailangan ang krudo o gasolina dahil patatakbuhin ito ng elektrisidad o kaya’y umaayon ito sa Euro IV emission standard na itinakda ng Department of Environment and Natural Resources para sa internal combustion na makina.

Ang mga tradisyunal na dyip ang pinagdiskitahan samantalang mas marami ang kotse at pribadong sasakyan na gumagamit ng kalsada. Dalawang porsyento lamang ng kabuuang rehistradong mga sasakyan ang mga dyip at 15% lamang ang ambag ng dyip at iba pang pampublikong transportasyon sa kabuuang carbon emission sa buong bansa, ayon sa mga pananaliksik.

Sa ganitong bilang, hindi makatarungang isangkalan ng gobyerno sa mga dyip kung bakit unang-una ang Metro Manila sa 387 syudad sa buong mundo noong isang taon na may pinakamasahol na problema sa trapik.

Umaabot ng ₱4.9 bilyong kita kada araw ang nawawala sa bansa sanhi ng trapik.  Ang dinaranas na trapik laluna sa mga expressway ay hindi dahil sa mga dyip o sa pangkalatan ng mga pampublikong sasakyan, kundi bahagi ito ng pangkabuuang krisis sa sistema ng transportasyon sa bansa na dapat lutasin.

Ang mga tsuper na kasapi ng PISTON sa unang araw ng kanilang tigil pasada kahapon. (Larawan ni N. Bacarra/Kodao)

Alternatibo

Noong 2017 pa pormal na sinimulan ang PUVMP. Mula noon, nilalabanan ito ng mga progresibong tsuper at opereytor kaalinsabay ng paghahapag ng hinaing kontra sa phaseout nito. Bukod sa kultural na aspeto ng tatak ng pagiging Pilipino sa buong mundo, maaari pang paunlarin ito sa pamamagitan ng rehabilitasyon ng mga lumang dyip na nakapakete sa programa ng pagsuporta sa lokal na produksyon tulad ng igingiit ng mga progresibong tsuper.

Para rito, suportang programa ang kakailanganin upang muling buhayin ang industriya ng paggawa ng dyip at bukod pa rito ay mapananatili ang legasiya ng disenyo ng dyip na bantog na kinagigiliwan sa buong mundo.

Bagamat wala pang kakayahan ang bansa sa pagmamanupaktura ng makina, hindi na ito malaking kabawasan kung aangkatin ito sa kabuuang balangkas na buhayin ang industriya at makalikha ng trabaho sa mga manggagawa, taliwas sa nais mangyari ng PUVMP.  Oportunidad para sa mga Pilipino ang inihahapag ng mga progresibong organisasyon ng mga tsuper at opereytor para pagulungin ang industriya na siya namang litaw na inaabandona ngayon ng gobyerno sa programang ito.

Isang mahalagang usapin din na hindi kailangang abandonahin ang kultural na aspeto ng pagkakaroon ng mga tradisyunal na dyip kapalit ng pangingibaw ng kultura ng korupsyon at iba pang katiwalian sa gobyerno, ng pandarahas at pagpapakatuta ng nakaupong rehimen sa dayuhan.

Balewala rin sa gobyerno ang dislokasyon ng libu-libong pamilya ng mga tsuper/opereytor na tiyak na tatamaan sa hindi pagsama sa iskemang konsolidasyon ng prangkisa.

Regalong tubo at pasismo

Hindi mahirap na isipin na ang PUVMP ay programang sulsol ng malalaking negosyanteng Pilipino sa pakikipagsabwatan sa mga dayuhan. Kaya hindi na nakapagtataka kung bakit mayroon nang korporasyon para rito ang mga pinakamayayamang kapitalistang Pilipino tulad ng mga Manny Villar, Ramon Ang at Manny Pangilinan.

May ₱1.5 bilyon ng pamumuhunan si Pangilinan para sa dagdag na 500 modernong dyip na ruruta sa Mentro Manila, Pampanga at Nueva Ecija na target kumpletuhin hanggang 2027.

Lantad sa programang ito ang pagbibigay-prayoridad ng gobyerno sa mga pribadong korporasyon.

Sa pinakahuling datos na inilabas ng LTFRB, umaabot na sa 80% ang pumasok sa konsolidasyon sa buong bansa at 96% naman sa National Captial Region. Hindi naman umano makukuha ang 100% na pumailalim sa programa pero sapat na bilang na ito para gumulong ang “modernisasyon”.

Subalit sa pinakahuling anunsyo ng gobyerno, makabibyahe pa rin sa Mayo ang mga dyip kahit hindi nagpakonsolida. Taliwas ito sa programa at hindi ito akto ng pag-unawa sa kalagayan ng mga tsuper/opereytor kundi isang malinaw na pagpapakita ng bangkaroteng programa at kawalang-kahandaan kung paano sasaluhin ng gobyerno ang maaapektuhang komyuter ng krisis sa transportasyon na dulot ng programa sakaling paralisahin ang pagbyahe ng mga dyip.

Tulad ng karanasan ng mga manggagawa sa mga enklabong industriyal na sikil ang karapatan tulad ng pag-uunyon, mga demokratikong aksyon para sa sariling kagalingan, pagpako sa sahod at iba pa, malaki ang posibilidad na gawin ito sa korporasidong asosasyon ng mga tsuper. Dahil nasa ilalim na ng mga korporasyon, nakaamba ang higit na pagkitil sa mga karapatan ng mga tsuper sa hinaharap na maaaring humantong sa malalang paglabag sa mga karapatang pantao.

Mas mataas na pagkakaisa ang kailangang bigkisin ng mga tsuper/opereytor laban PUVMP na dapat magkahugis sa paglapad at pagdami ng hanay at sa pag-abot sa mga komyuter. Hindi handa ang gobyerno sa paglala ng krisis sa transportasyon na maaaring magganyak ng pagsanib ng mga komyuter at makisangkot sa isyung ito na lubhang kinatatakutan ng gobyerno.

Sa edad ko nga palang ito, nakiki-bilad pa ako sa init ng panahon masamahan ko lang ang mga tsuper sa kanilang laban. Ito na ang aking bayad sa minsang hindi ako nag-abot ng pamasahe. #

Opposing jeepney abolition

“I declare my solidarity with the jeepney drivers. Ownership of their vehicles gives them dignity and selfworth. I also think that the jeepney is a part of our culture. So let us oppose its abolition!”—Mo. Mary John Mananzan, OSB (nun, educator, activist)

Image by Jo Maois Mamangun

Forced franchise consolidation will distress thousands of drivers and strand millions of commuters

by IBON Foundation

Bongbong Marcos Jr’s refusal to extend the deadline for franchise consolidation reveals how callous his administration is to ordinary Filipinos – the livelihoods of tens of thousands of public utility vehicle (PUV) drivers and operators will be disrupted and millions of people will have an even harder time commuting. The abrupt banning of so many jeepneys portends forced modernization and drastic fare hikes. Millions of Filipinos will be affected and not just a “minority,” contrary to Marcos Jr’s claims.

Under the mandatory franchise consolidation, instead of individual franchises, only one cooperative or corporation will be issued a franchise to ply a single route. Traditional jeepney and utility van express (UVE) vehicles not consolidated into a cooperative or corporation will no longer be allowed to operate. This means hundreds of thousands of drivers and operators nationwide and their families will lose their livelihoods.

The Department of Transportation (DOTr) estimates that 71,395 public utility jeepneys (PUJ) and UVE units nationwide have not been consolidated, consisting of 64,639 PUJs (43% of total PUJs) and 6,756 UVE units (35% of UVE units). This could mean around 140,000 drivers and operators who cannot afford to consolidate or, with their families, over half a million Filipinos economically displaced in the new year. This does not even include thousands of drivers and operators already consolidated in cooperatives who are in debt and struggling to make a living.

With only 57% of PUJs and 65% of UVEs nationwide consolidated, millions of commuters will have to deal with longer lines, longer waiting times, and more crowded rides from the start of the new year. Commuting time is also not guaranteed to be shorter, as the government has been inefficient in planning the new routes. The mass transport crisis will worsen due to the limited number of consolidated PUVs and the lack of a clear government program to deal with the huge gap after the forced consolidation deadline.

The consolidation rate in the National Capital Region, which has the biggest and most concentrated population in the country, is even lower than the national average at only 26% of PUJs (10,973) and 34% of UVEs (2,497) consolidated. There are an estimated nine million jeepney passengers daily in Metro Manila alone and the lack of consolidated PUJs will leave many of them stranded.

The Marcos Jr administration is indifferent to the plight of PUV drivers, operators and commuters and instead is more concerned with private sector interests that will benefit the most from the forced consolidation. The worsening privatization and corporatization threatens to raise jeepney fares by 300-400% over the next few years.

As it is, Manny Pangilinan-backed modern PUJ operator Byahe will be investing more than Php1.5 billion on more than 500 e-vehicles to ply 35 routes mostly in Metro Manila and Cebu by 2027. The Aranetas through their Beep Jeeps and the Villars through their MetroExpress Connect also have investments in modern jeepneys.

As the consolidation deadline fast approaches, it is important to support the impending transport strike, to not only stand with the PUV drivers and operators and their families in the fight for their livelihoods but to also demand a genuinely sustainable and pro-people public mass transport system.

PISTON to stage another strike vs jeepney phase out

The country’s largest federation of drivers and operators announced another transport strike against the planned phase out of traditional jeepneys.

The Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (PISTON) said it will stage another transport strike on December 14 and 15 against the December 31 Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) deadline for franchise consolidation.

The new strike follows the three-day strike the group staged starting November 20 that paralyzed major routes in Metro Manila and key regions throughout the country.

PISTON president Mody Florande said the LTFRB and the Department of Transportation (DoTr) have yet to deliver on their earlier promise to “carefully study” their demand for the scrapping of the forced consolidation of jeepney franchises.

A key component of the 10-point Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Plan (PUVMP), franchise consolidation mandates all operators to surrender their individual franchises to a cooperative or corporation serving a specific route.

PISTON said the government’s mandatory consolidation scheme only leads to the “corporate capture” of public transport in the Philippines as only corporations and rich cooperatives can afford the imposed standards.

The scheme the LTFRB dubbed “One route, one franchise, one operator” is expected to affect 80% of all operators nationwide while tens of thousands of drivers may be driven out of their livelihood on the very last day of the year, the transport group said.

“Is this DoTr and LTFRB’s Christmast gift to us, the loss of livelihood of thousands of driver and operators” Floranda asked in a press conference last Monday, December 3, announcing their strike.

“They should be ashamed. They will be forcing many families into hunger once the new year starts,” he said.

PISTON infographic

PISTON said that only about 26% of PUV operators in the National Capital Region have agreed to surrender their franchise for consolidation since the PUVMP was implemented in 2018, indicating its unpopularity.

If the December 31 deadline pushes through, PISTON said more than 33 thousand jeepneys would already be disallowed to ply their routes starting January 1, 2024.

The group added that 64 thousand drivers and 25 thousand operators would be jobless.

PISTON infographic

“If the deadline is imposed, it clearly would bring about a transport crisis in the country,” PISTON warned.

“What is stopping (LTFRB chairperson Teofilo) Guadiz (from heeding calls to scrap the program}? He only has to issue one memorandum circular and the deadline would be scrapped,” Florande asked.

At the press conference, the transport leader asked for understanding from commuters as their strike only aims to ensure they would have still jeepneys to ride in on January 1. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Court acquits PISTON leader vs LTFRB charge

The Metropolitan Trial Court of Quezon City (MTC-QC) acquitted a transport leader against charges filed by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) in 2017.

Pinagkaisang Samahan ng Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide (PISTON) president emeritus George San Mateo said MTC-QC Branch 43 acquitted him of the charges filed by the transport agency in connection with his role in the nationwide transport strikes opposing the LTFRB’s so-called jeepney modernization program.

“According to the court, I am acquitted of the charge against me by the LTFRB of allegedly violating the Public Service Act (Commonwealth Act No 146) when I was PISTON president,” San Mateo said.

MTC-QC Branch 43 conducted an open court promulgation of his case that he watched online, San Mateo said.

Then PISTON president, San Mateo led nationwide strikes against the so called jeepney modernization scheme in February and October of 2017 which the LTFRB said is disallowed and may lead to cancellations of permits to operate.

San Mateo said the court’s decision has validated their stand that the jeepney drivers’ right to hold strikes is more important than LTFRB’s threats.

“This should be considered a victory for the right of PUV drivers, small operators and the people to peaceably and militantly assemble to air their legitimate grievances and aspirations,” San Mateo said.

San Mateo called on both drivers and passengers to carry on the fight against the phase out of jeepneys and the “business of fake public utility vehicle modernization by the Duterte, Department of Transportation and LTFRB regimes.”

The decision was released two years to the day when San Mateo was arrested and allowed to post bail. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Ang sinapit ng mga drayber

“Dati, kami ang kinakawayan. Ngayon, kami ang kumakaway [para mamalimos].”–Joel Caligayan, tsuper ng jeep biyaheng Rosario-Cubao

Our struggle is not a spectacle

By Denver del Rosario

I was supposed to be in San Juan for work at around 2 pm. I left my house at noon like I always do because, oftentimes, that two-hour allowance is enough. But with the infernal Metro Manila traffic, expect the worst to happen.

I checked my phone. 3:57 pm. And I was still in Kamuning, far from where I was supposed to be. In an act of surrender, I told my editor a minute after that I won’t be pushing through with my coverage today. What should have been moments of productivity became time wasted on the road. I got off the bus, but then came a heavy downpour. I spent an hour in a fastfood restaurant to wait for the skies to clear and then I went out to wait for a ride home.

But then it was past five, and many people were trying to go home. To see buses jampacked with passengers was both frustrating and discouraging: frustrating because we don’t deserve this; discouraging because I wasn’t sure if I could get on a bus in this area with many people also waiting. So I chose to do the 40-minute walk to Philcoa. From there, I finally found a jeepney ride home.

This is the harsh reality many of us face where workers and students have no choice but to wake up a bit earlier in order to avoid the morning rush, only to find themselves still waiting for hours. Some say that the metro traffic is the great equalizer, but I call this bull—-. To say that is to be devoid of class analysis.

When the powerful and the influential romanticize the plight of the ordinary people by telling us that our daily sacrifice is the very definition of Filipino resilience and perseverance I don’t smile in gratitude, I rage. For our struggle is not a story of inspiration, but rather of gross neglect and plain arrogance, one where the grievances of the citizenry are easily ignored by those who should be listening and taking action.

Standing in the middle of an overcrowded bus while passengers still try to shove their way in is not a metaphor, so are burning railroads and dysfunctional trains. This is the reality of the masses, a never-ending cycle of waking up early and going home late while losing hope in the process. With these difficult circumstances, we have fallen into compromise; we don’t care anymore about safety and inconvenience, if the vehicle is too cramped, if the aircon is not working, because we all just want to go home.

It isn’t surprising to know that this denial of a mass transport crisis by the administration has earned the ire of the citizenry. Recently we learned about goverment officials telling us to be more “creative” when commuting, or that Superman is the only one who can save the day. When people shrug off their statements as comical relief instead of recognizing its plain insensitivity, this only manifests how much hypocrisy and incompetence we are willing to tolerate as a society just because we keep hoping change will happen. This is them not doing their mandate, and us willingly accepting that.

What government officials say is a reflection of the principles they hold in shaping public policy. For example, do we really expect a leader who catcalls female journalists and jokes about rape to strengthen laws regarding sexual harassment? Or an elected official who steals agricultural lands for profit to genuinely advocate for farmers? Go figure.

To the rich and the powerful, to hell with you and your uncalled-for sense of superiority. Your oppressing kind has the gall to tell us to hang in there as you look outside from your comfortable seats? Please. Our struggle is not a spectacle. ?????? ????????????, ?????? ?????????? ?????????. We don’t need your condescension; we need you to wake the hell up.

And to us who keep enduring hell, we have no other option but to carry on. We wake up early and go home late for we have bills to pay, mouths to feed, and dreams to fulfill. As we brave the metro traffic again, may we always remind ourselves that we should never settle for less, because we deserve more. But as we all know by now, we don’t wait for the world to change. We take action, rage on. #

(The author is a sports journalist. He has contributed stories to Kodao since his student days.)

Why not ‘palit jeepney’ and driver-managed cooperatives?

By Glenis Balangue

The Duterte administration has suspended classes on October 16-17, anticipating that the transport strike of jeepney drivers and operators to protest the phaseout of jeepneys may paralyze transportation nationwide. Yet, the government has been sweeping under the rug concerns not only of small drivers and operators but also of the riding public: displacement, lost livelihoods and impending fare increase. The replacement of jeepneys is referred to as transport modernization and those against it as anti-modernization. But behind the seeming noble objectives are big business interests that the government refuses to compromise.

Half-step forward

The government has laid down the groundwork for the eradication of existing jeepneys by 2020 through a series of issuances. The Department of Transportation (DOTr) issued the Omnibus Guidelines on the Planning and Identification of Public Road Transportation Services and Franchise Issuances or Department Order 2017-011 (Omnibus Franchising Guidelines) on June 19, 2017. This order concretizes the planned phaseout of public utility vehicles (PUVs) that are considered not roadworthy. It also lays down new franchising rules that only allow corporations or cooperatives with a fleet of 15 vehicles and up to apply for new routes. It restricts jeepneys and other small-capacity vehicles on major roads.

Local government units (LGUs) have to come up with local transport plans, which will detail the route network, modes, and required number of PUVs for each mode to deliver services. This will be the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB)’s basis for establishing the PUV route in the locality, the mode of transport and the number of franchises that will be issued. A new route rationalization plan that aims to limit the routes that small-capacity PUVs like jeepneys ply will also be based on the Omnibus Franchising Guidelines.

Aiming to have less emissions and more efficient mass transport is laudable. The transport sector accounts for 70-80% of air pollution in Metro Manila. But the government is doing this without regard to hundreds of thousands of drivers and small operators who will be displaced for as long as it is able to usher in a new arena for big business. Ironically, the government is once again making the poor pay for the cost of government neglect of mass transport.

Two steps backward

The government targets to replace some 250,000 jeepneys nationwide. The jeepney phaseout will impact drivers and small operators and the riding public in three major ways: 1) unaffordability of allowed substitutes despite the loan offered by the government; 2) corporate capture; and, 3) higher fares.

The Omnibus Franchising Guidelines requires a certain make of PUVs in order to qualify for a franchise. Pending unit specifications to be issued by the LTFRB, public utility jeepneys (PUJ) should be “below seven meters in length with door locations that allow boarding and alighting only from curbside, not from the rear”. Other features include a Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) receiver, free Wi-Fi, closed circuit television (CCTV) with continuous recording of past 72 hours of operation, automatic fare collection system for units within highly urbanized independent cities, a speed limiter, and dashboard camera. The LTFRB has yet to provide for the age limit of PUVs based on the year of the oldest major component such as chassis and engine/motor of the vehicle.

The Omnibus Franchising Guidelines also mandates the LTFRB to give priority to brand new and “environmentally-friendly” units in the allocation of certificates of public convenience (CPCs), the franchise needed to be qualified as a public utility vehicle, and deployment, based on route categories. The requirements are: a) units with electric drive and/or combustion engine that complies with Euro IV or better emission standards, b) units that comply with LTFRB-set age limit of oldest vehicle part, and c) refurbished/rebuilt vehicles that pass the type approval system test and issued a Certificate of Compliance with Emission Standards (initial registration) and roadworthiness test (renewal) of the Land Transportation Office (LTO).

There is a glaring lack of high capacity transport modes at present. Yet, the Omnibus Franchising Guidelines also restricts jeepneys on major roads, only allowing them as feeder services, operating in arterial and local roads to link neighborhoods and communities to other higher capacity modes such as rail and bus. PUJs are designated to serve routes with passenger demands of 1,000 passengers per hour per direction (pphpd). In cities, they will operate on a maximum length of 15 kilometers while in others, 35 kilometers.

Expensive units, insufficient financing scheme

Drivers and small operators have repeatedly decried the phaseout because they cannot afford electric or e-jeepneys (airconditioned: Php1.4 to Php1.6 million; non-airconditioned: Php1.1. to Php1.4 million), jeepneys with Euro IV engines (Php1 – 1.5 million), solar-powered vehicles (up to Php1.6 million). According to transport group Piston (Pinagkaisang Samahan ng Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide), most of the jeepney operators only have Php200,000-400,000 as capital per jeepney and most are single operator (operator is also the driver or driver is a family member) units.

The government approved a jeepney loan program through the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) worth Php1 billion. Borrowers can avail of a loan package of Php1.2 million to Php1.6 million to buy either an air-conditioned electric, hybrid or Euro-IV jeepney. The LBP estimated that it could finance 650 to 700 units of e-jeepneys. Those who will avail of the loan would pay a downpayment and pay the rest using a “boundary” (the amount a jeepney driver needs to turn over to the operator per day, net of fuel expenses) payment scheme of Php800 a day for seven years at 6% interest. After seven years, the borrower will own the jeepney. The LBP will finance up to 95% of the acquisition cost of the jeepney, while the borrower will pay the remaining amount as equity. The Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) has also set up a loan portfolio of Php1.5 billion to fund the acquisition of some 700 to 900 PUV units.

The government meanwhile approved a subsidy of Php2.2 billion to subsidize the equity of the jeepney loan of around 28,000 drivers/operators in the next three years starting with 250 borrowers in 2018. This is equivalent to a subsidy of Php80,000 per borrower, which will be coursed through the LBP.

Even then, drivers and small operators will find it hard to pay for the Php800 loan amortization daily for seven years as they already have difficulties paying the current Php450 boundary. Even the prospect of owning the jeepney after seven years is not enough for them to accept a scheme that will compel them to cough up such high payment conditions.

Impending fare hikes

Fare hikes are inevitable. One of the reasons why PUJ fares remain affordable is the relatively low capitalization, operation and maintenance expenses. Global Electric Transportation Ltd. (GET), the operator of COMET (Community Optimized Managed Electric Transport – a fleet of around 30 lithium battery-powered vehicles), admitted that because they are competing for the market of PUJs, they have to base their fare rates on that of PUJs.

Filipino commuters have been burdened by fare hikes with the government’s policy of putting mass transport in the hands of private corporations. The government’s turnover of the LRT 1 operations and maintenance to a private corporation resulted in the assurance of fare hikes for the private operator. The government also increased rail fares by as much as 87% in 2015 in order to make mass transport projects attractive to private investors.

Corporate capture

The Omnibus Franchising Guidelines basically mandates the LTFRB to consolidate operators and favor the establishment of “bigger coordinated” fleets of PUVs, including giving incentives and higher priority to operators with larger fleet sizes. The LTFRB will determine and implement the rule of “least possible number of operators” in a given route.

As part of the route rationalization policy, the government will require a minimum of 15 units per PUV fleet to be granted a franchise on new and development routes. Effectively, with the implementation of the Omnibus Franchising Guidelines, the government will close or shorten traditional PUV routes to reserve these for high capacity transport such as light rail transit and rapid bus transit, therefore displacing PUVs on these routes altogether.

These provisions will assure that current jeepneys will be replaced and new types of PUVs will be introduced. Hence, the scale of operation will also shift from single-operator or small fleet operator to corporations that have the capitalization to provide and maintain a big fleet of PUVs.

The government argues that drivers, instead of being subjected to the “boundary” system, can be salaried workers of these corporate fleet managers, with benefits as workers. However, transport group Piston claims that, in their experience fleet management still practices a quota system, which, like the boundary system, subjects drivers to high quotas, and therefore longer work hours, before they can receive their wages. Piston also decries that older drivers may have lesser chances of meeting education and age requirement of fleet managers, hence losing their source of livelihood completely.

Facilitating foreign interests

Finally, while drivers and small operators find e-jeepneys or jeepneys with Euro IV engines to be unaffordable, replacing some 250,000 jeepneys in the country would mean big business not only for foreign manufacturers of parts and assemblers of vehicles. Based on the minimum cost of Php1.2 million per unit, the replacement of 250,000 jeepneys is a market of Php300 billion.

The government is planning to use public money to subsidize foreign car manufacturers to facilitate their entry to this big, new market of PUV assembly. Under the Comprehensive Automotive Resurgence Strategy (CARS) Program, the government will fund assemblers of so-called eco-friendly PUVs. The CARS program has a Php27-billion subsidy for six years for assemblers to be given fixed investment support (FIS) and/or Production Volume Incentive to revive the car assembly industry in the Philippines beginning 2016. The Board of Investments has closed the third slot of CARS (the two being Mitsubishi and Toyota) in order to focus on PUV assemblers. For 2018, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is asking Php1.64 billion to fund the incentive promised to carmakers.

This faulty version of jeepney modernization underscores the fundamental weaknesses of our economy. The government’s replacement for jeepneys will again be largely assembled from imported components by local assemblers or imported already built. Even PUVs assembled in the Philippines under the CARS program will still be primarily imported as the main platform and rolling chassis will still be built abroad by foreign companies such as Hino, Isuzu, Fuso and Foton while Euro IV engines will be sourced from India, China and Japan.  Even the COMET was designed and manufactured by US company, Pangea Motors, LLC. Likewise, one of the largest makers of the e-jeepney at present is a Taiwanese company and member of the Electric Vehicle Association of the Philippines (EVAP), Teco Electric and Machinery Co. Ltd. It has exported e-jeepneys from its factories in Taiwan to fleet managers in Metro Manila such as the Ejeepney Transport Corp. plying the business district of Makati.

 Why not palit jeepney and driver-managed cooperatives?

If indeed the government wants to usher in clean transportation, it should ensure that the burden is not on the shoulders of drivers and operators who only try to eke out a living. Instead of prioritizing subsidies for foreign car manufacturers, the government can use the CARS fund to initially subsidize jeepney drivers/operators so as not to displace them by the mere cost of new units. It is a noteworthy investment for the government to do so, given that the proliferation of this mode of transport has been a result of the chronic lack of livelihood opportunities and neglect of mass transportation in the first place.

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. #