The jeepney ‘Pantawid Pasada’ program

Due to hikes in fuel excise taxes and surging prices of oil products, jeepney drivers will get fuel subsidies. To ensure that these subsidies will benefit the drivers who are affected

by high fuel costs, the government must see to it that holes in the system of distributing the debit cash cards are plugged.

The debit cash cards are distributed through operators listed as official jeepney franchise-holders. However, there are fears that some operators may take advantage of the opportunity to defraud the government and dupe their drivers.

Operators are not directly affected by rising fuel prices, as their drivers are the ones shouldering fuel costs. Operators are assured of boundary income, whether fuel costs rise or drop, or drivers get passengers or not.

However, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board has no better choice but to deal with operators who control the drivers. However, leakages are likely owing to some unplugged holes and the lure of cash. What can stop some erring operators from sending dummy-drivers to claim cash cards if all they need to do is to show government IDs?

Much “a-dough” about nothing? Transport Undersecretary Tim Orbos confirmed that less than P1 billion was earmarked for 2018 for the subsidy program involving some 179,000 jeepneys, with P5,000 distributed per jeepney driver.

Finance Assistant Secretary Tony Lambino said at a National Press Club forum that P20,000 per jeepney is planned for 2019, with a budget reaching P3.86 billion. This would help jeepney drivers absorb excise taxes of P2.50/liter of diesel for 2018, P4.50/liter in 2019 and P6/liter in 2020.

The P20,000 subsidy per jeepney may look like a lot of dough, but Engr. Dave Garcia, a transport cooperative organizer, said if computed against average consumption of 30 liters/day on 300 operating days a year for a total of 9,000 liters, it only amounts to P2.22/liter.

Garcia said the same subsidies should be spent instead on a package of maintenance materials that will benefit both operators and drivers, while enabling jeepneys to comply with emission standards and partly with government’s jeepney modernization program.

Better be “kind,” perhaps? Instead of giving cash, it is advisable therefore to give in kind, which will make the program kind enough and one of a kind.

But what kind of materials worth P20,000 must be packaged per jeepney? They can be given spare parts and maintenance consumables that address friction zones subjected to regular wear and tear, which include oil filters, lubricants, etc.

The government can be kind enough to accommodate all suppliers so it won’t be accused of favoring any company or brand. This will enable jeepney operators and drivers to test these materials themselves and later make their own choices that match their needs.

Benefits are more than the subsidy. Experiments of some progressive transport groups show that proper maintenance can generate 10 percent to 30 percent in fuel savings. Thus, diesel price at P47/liter can mean savings or earnings of P4.7/liter to as much as P14.1 per liter, or much more than the subsidy equivalent of P2.22/liter as discussed earlier. This also means additional earnings, enough to absorb rising fuel prices.

Apart from fuel savings, operators also benefit from savings in cost of maintenance, which help stunt wear and tear and prevent regular engine breakdowns, resulting from passenger overloads and 14-hour-a-day
average operating time.

The shift in spending from cash to maintenance in kind also prepares the sector for modernization and clean fleet management.

Why maintenance is key. The government may not fully realize it, but the success of the jeepney modernization is anchored mainly on maintenance, which is vital in preventing engine breakdown due to stressful 14-hour operations. Sustainability and amortization payments are thus assured, considering that warranties cover only the first three years. Without proper maintenance, government’s massive multibillion-peso investments will be at risk.

It’s mandated by law. Section 21 of the Clean Air Act mandates the transportation department to implement emission standards two ways: 1) Inspection through the Motor Vehicle Inspection System (MVIS) and 2) Maintenance policy or program, which is nonexistent, but aimed supposedly to oblige motorists to assume the responsibility and habit of maintenance.

The government has five clean air programs, all limited to measuring air pollution: 1) Ambient Air or pollution in the air; 2) MVIS; 3) Private Emission Testing Centers (PETC); 4) Anti-Smoke Belching operations; and a planned 5) Emission Inventory of sources of pollution. Unfortunately, there is no program on seeking solution to emissions, which a maintenance program can provide.

And yet Section 3 asserts that focus must be on “Pollution Prevention than Control” and “Information and Education,” and, therefore, not just on measuring pollution that we’ve been doing for years.

Section 11 on making available all information on pollution control is not being done, and Section 15 on Pollution Research remains unimplemented. Section 46 also states that penalties on smoke-belchers must be accompanied by seminars on pollution prevention. The Department of Science and Technology is also supposed to validate all technologies used in any government program. But all these are achieved indirectly with maintenance as an action-research or applied-research, this time done directly with jeepneys.


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Michael Alunan was for many years a full time business journalist tasked to mind other people’s businesses, but he tried venturing later into business going left and right, up and down, zig and zag till he broke down with heart surgeries for aortic valve replacement and two cases of aneurysm. He is now busy with pro-bono coop organizing and social entrepreneurship development for basic sectors and just keeps a weekly column for the love of writing and to have fun and make pun, while contributing to policy reforms and program development.