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‘Strikes won’t deter government from phasing out old jeepneys’

Photo from CNN Philippines

 The transport strike might have forced Malacañang to suspend classes at all levels and government work on Monday, but the jeepney-modernization program, which a number of jeepney drivers and operators oppose, will still push through.

Presidential Spokesman Ernesto C. Abella said the government is “always up in arms” should transport groups decide to hold strikes in protest of the Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP).

“[The] government is ready and prepared as it laid out contingency measures to assist commuters hit by the nationwide transport strike,” Abella said in a statement.

According to Abella, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) has tapped 35 city buses in Metro Manila to assist commuters in the face of the transport strike. This is in addition to the four military trucks, four buses, four vans and four service vehicles provided by the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority; 15 military trucks by the Armed Forces of the Philippines; 12 light trucks and four military trucks by the Philippine Coast Guard; and six shuttles and one service vehicle by the Department of Public Works and Highways.

Abella added local government units have also stepped up efforts to aid their constituents who might be affected by the transport strike. In spite of the opposition from the transport group, Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Operaytor Nationwide (Piston), Abella made clear that the government will carry on with its plan to phase out old jeepneys and replace them with modern models.

“The administration remains committed to the PUVMP, which is long overdue. There were several attempts in the past to modernize the public transport system, but these have been thwarted due to similar transport strikes, which, unfortunately, resulted in an outdated public transport system,” Abella said.

He added the jeepney-modernization program has earned the backing of various transport groups, except for “left-leaning” Piston.

“These include the Federation of Jeepney Operators and Drivers Association of the Philippines, Alliance of Concerned Transport Organizations, Pangkalahatang Sanggunian Manila and Suburb Drivers Association Nationwide Inc., Land Transportation Organization of the Philippines, Alliance of Transport Operators and Drivers Association of the Philippines, Stop and Go Coalition and [the] majority of provincial transport cooperatives all over the country,” Abella said.

Piston President George F. San Mateo said his group is opposing the program, as the
phaseout of 15-year-old vehicles would displace thousands of jeepney drivers.  Under the program, modern jeepneys must be equipped with Euro 4 emission-standard engines. These vehicles will also be required to have speed limiters, GPS, dash cam and closed-circuit television, to ensure the safety and security of the commuters.

‘Burden on drivers’

Under the proposed program, the LTFRB is tasked to undertake reforms in regulation through the Omnibus Franchising Guidelines. The program also mandates the regulator to implement new jeepney-vehicle standards, rationalize routes and assist in a proposed scrapping program, among others.

Other government agencies will be involved in the program’s implementation. The Department of Trade and Industry will extend the Comprehensive Automotive Resurgence Strategy Program, which provides vehicle manufacturers with incentives. The Department of Finance will assist the LTFRB in implementing a financing program for the proposed refleeting of public-utility jeepneys.

But Rep. Sarah Elgalo of Kabataan, Reps. Emmi de Jesus and Arlene Brosas of Gabriela, Rep. Ariel Casilao of AnakPawis and Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate of Bayan Muna said the government’s PUV-modernization program would burden, not help, drivers.

“The project, now fully funded by the government in its national budget in the amount of P843.45 million, fails to consider the plight of jeepney drivers and the commuters,” Elago said. According to the lawmaker, the cost of modernization will be shouldered by commuters themselves.

“The government will have to subsidize the purchase of the e-jeepneys, manufactured abroad and by local business tycoons, through our taxes.”

With Lorenz Marasigan

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