PBBM managed to persuade the striking jeepney drivers and operators to lift their strike by promising a review of the public utility vehicle modernization program and the creation of jobs for those to be displaced by the PUVMP.
What PBBM failed to tackle in his mediation effort is the failure of past and present officials of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) and the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to design and implement a PUVMP that is aligned or in conformity with the principles of “Just Transition.” The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and other UN agencies such as the International Labour Organization (ILO) have long been advising the UN Member States to adopt the Just Transition framework in the “greening” of an economy as part of their GHG-reduction commitments under the Paris Agreement of 2015, a historic global compact to combat climate change (CC). In the 26th Conference of Parties on climate change held at Glasgow, Scotland in 2021, a side Declaration on Just Transition was issued to remind countries on the importance of Just Transition. In the 27th COP held in Egypt late last year, a pavilion to showcase models or examples of Just Transition was even set up.
What then is Just Transition?
Just Transition means doing no or minimum harm to society’s stakeholders—farmers, workers, communities and concerned industry players—as a country tries to push its major economic sectors (energy, manufacturing, agriculture and so on) to make the necessary adaptation (adjustment to possible risks) and mitigation (GHG-reducing) measures to meet the “green transformation” requirements needed to cool Mother Earth. Green transformation requires a “green transition” program that is fair and just to all. Managing the transition to a CC-ready arrangement clearly requires a social contract or consensus on an integrated program of environmental, economic, social and labor policies to minimize the social cost of transition and maximize the opportunities in going green for all.
To help UN member countries craft a Just Transition program, the ILO, acting on the demand of the International Trade Union Confederation, came up in 2015 with Guidelines for a just transition towards environmentally sustainable economies and societies for all. The Guidelines call for alignment of major climate adaptation-mitigation programs with the following:
- Adherence to overall concept of “sustainable development”, which means the present generation should be able to meet its survival and growth-development goals without compromising the needs of future generations.
- Social Inclusion, meaning no one is excluded or left behind.
- Poverty-reducing or elimination of poverty and inequality.
- Coherence in addressing economic, social and environmental issues, and
- Observance of ILO “Decent Work” principles, meaning the program is job-creating, respects the rights of workers, provides social protection for all concerned, and is developed through social dialogue or consultation-interaction with all stakeholders.
Now back to the PUVMP. Is the program aligned with the above Just Transition framework?
In a workshop on climate change and jeepney modernization, the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice and the Freedom from Debt Coalition gave the LTFRB and DOTr a failing grade. They decried the apparent ignorance of the two agencies on the importance of linking green transformation with Just Transition. Some participants even opined that some transport officials chose to ignore the Just Transition framework for selfish reasons such as giving crony business friends the potentially lucrative business of importing and distributing the expensive “jeepneys” from China and Japan. Below is the PMCJ-FDC itemization of the two agencies’ failure in observing the Just Transition framework:
Having informed, frank and sustained social dialogue with the stakeholders? Answer: None.
Participation of the jeepney drivers and operators in designing and implementing the PUVMP? Answer: Hardly any.
Respect for the rights of drivers and small operators? Answer: Unfair
PUVMP to create jobs? Answer: No; in fact, PUVMP can lead to massive displacements.
PUVMP beneficial to the riding public? Answer: Many who use jeepneys support the strike because they see that the PUVMP, as designed, will lead to higher jeepney fares.
PUVMP to serve as engine of economic growth? Answer: Growth will happen in China and Japan, where most of the “modern” jeepneys shall be built and exported to the Philippines.
Vehicle modernization to apply equally to other segments of the transport sector such as buses, trucks and private vehicles? Answer: No program being developed or shared by the government with the public.
PUVMP to lead to social cohesion and social harmony? Answer: The strike of angry drivers/operators and the support to the strike extended by the riding jeepney public speak for themselves.
An academic-scientist, Dr. Ted Mendoza from UP Los Baños, joined the PMCJ-FDC workshop by sharing his study on the “blind sides” of the PUVMP. These include the following: unclear fleet management and rerouting plans under the PUVMP, lack of skills development for the drivers in relation to the formation of the so-called cooperatives, and lack of “lay-over” garage and facilities for the new but bigger vehicles. To Dr. Mendoza, the worst aspects of the PUVMP are the requirement for drivers/operators to surrender their franchises or “lifelines”; the “financial blind side” as the cost of the new jeepneys, estimated to be between P2.5 million to P2.8 million each, is beyond the financial capacity of the drivers/operators, and the failure of the government to use the challenge of PUV modernization and greening to promote Philippine industrial development.
On the last item, industrialization, members of Juan Industriya, an organization of Filipino engineers and professionals, assert that Filipinos have the talents and capacity to modernize the jeepneys at affordable prices. Yes, why not? As the UNEP, ILO and the UN Conference on Trade and Development are all saying: Greening can and should be a vehicle for the promotion of green industrialization and the generation of green jobs. Paging then the Department of Trade and Industry.
And paging too the Climate Change Commission and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, both of which are strangely silent on Just Transition, an issue that should be on top of their work agenda.
Dr. Rene E. Ofreneo is a Professor Emeritus of the University of the Philippines.
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