Not only would jeepney drivers and small-scale operators be affected by the looming threat of phaseout among public utility vehicles, the fact that this transportation crisis would surely affect even commuters and Filipinos at large.
In Metro Manila, jeepneys are by far the cheapest option among many people, especially for the poor as a mode of transportation.
On March 6, a nationwide transport strike was conducted and participated by fellow jeepney drivers, small-scaled operators and their supporters. The said protest paralyzed more than 80% of the major routes in the capital region and 100% across the country on the first day of the protest.
Garbed in colorful jeepney trademark signages bearing the call #NoToJeepneyPhaseout, more than 50 jeepneys assembled along University Ave. in UP Diliman which traversed the roads going to Mendiola in Manila.
The nationwide strike has become resounding and impactful. Many were stranded and obliged to wait or pile up in a queue among main jeepney terminals waiting for a ride. Transport groups were quick to explain that this is just one of the glaring impacts should there be no accessible PUVs on road like jeepneys or UV express.
“Naglakad na nga lang ako sa pupuntahan ko, eh. Pero sumusuporta ako sa laban para sa phaseout na iyan kaysa naman literal na maglalakad nalang talaga ako papunta sa paroroonan ko,” shared by one commuter waiting for jeepney along Timog Ave.
PISTON noted that as of 3 PM yesterday, the paralyzed routes are as follows:
- 90% – Valenzuela
- 90% – McArthur Highway
- 100% – Seacom Loyola
- 100% – E. Rodriguez
- 100% – UP Campus (Ikot, Toki), UP-Philcoa, UP-SM North, UP-Pantranco
- 100% – MCU Rotonda-Taft
- 100% – Gasak-Recto, Gasak-Divisoria
- 100% – Malabon-Navotas
- 100% – Cubao-Divisoria
- 100% – Malinta Novaliches
The group said that the government, Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board, and Department of Transportation (DOTr) have long been deceiving in terms of issuing a phaseout deadline.
As a matter of fact, the franchise for traditional jeepneys was previously set to expire by the end of March and April in the capital region. However, LTFRB then pushed a later deadline to June 30 instead of the March 31 deadline under Memorandum Circular 2023-013.
It moved for the transport sectors in a February 27 press conference where MANIBELA chairperson Mar Valbuena stood up and called for a weeklong nationwide “tigil-pasada” protest starting on March 6 that sparked militancy and solidarity among jeepney drivers, operators, and the general public.
What the public should know about the PUV Modernization Program
“Ang consolidation kasi, dalawa lang ang pwede nilang kinikilala sa pagtatayo, itong cooperative at corporation,” PISTON secretary-general Ruben Baylon explained
Traditional jeepneys are obliged to undergo consolidation by entering cooperatives or corporations in order to be given provisional authority to continue their operation. However, traditional jeepneys are also in peril given the PUV Modernization Program (PUVMP).
“Ang usapin dito ay ang prangkisa. Ang prangkisa ng mga drayber at operator ay nakalagay sa jeep. Kaya kung tanggalin mo ang prangkisa ng jeep, ano pang saysay ng jeep natin? Di ba wala na? Hindi ka na makakabiyahe dahil huhulihin ka at wala kang prangkisa,” Baylon added.
Under PUVMP, the LTFRB said operators who fail to meet the consolidation requirement would have their franchises or certificates of public convenience (CPC) revoked unless they would be joining a cooperative or a corporation.
In 2017, DOTr’s Omnibus Franchising Guidelines further noted that only corporations or cooperatives with at least 15 vehicles would be allowed to apply for new franchises, restricting small-capacity vehicles on main roads.
This means that not only a single unit must be purchased to comply with the government’s policies for PUVs to operate especially after the December 31 deadline this year. Not to mention that a single unit roughly ranges to a whopping price of P2.4 to P2.8 million (multiplied to 15, that is equivalent to P42 million)
“Sabi ng gobyerno, may tulong naman daw na ibibigay. Dati 80,000, dinoble pa nila naging 160,000. Pero di mo rin naman mahahawakan iyon dahil ibibigay sa bangko na magpapautang sa iyo,” said Baylon.
Accordingly, government-owned and controlled corporation (GOCC) banks like Land Bank and Development Bank were the ones to provide loans supporting the PUVMP. The borrower then pays a fixed interest rate of six per cent per annum payable in seven years with a grace period of six months for the principal amount.
But Baylon said that both banks halted this financial assistance, especially to those drivers and operators undergoing consolidation and purchase units.
“Itinutulak na nila mismo sa mga private entity na mga bangko na kung saan ‘yong 6% per annum ngayon sa mga private ay 12% per annum na interest. Kung sa 6% nga ay hindi na mabayaran, paano pa itong private na bangko na magpapautang na 12%?” said Baylon
History of PUV Modernization Program scheme
Before it all came to this, the PUVMP has long been rammed by the government since 2014.
“Noong ipinatupad ang Joint Administrative Order 2014-01 na mula sa P150 na pinakamababang multa, ginawa nilang P1,000 ang pinakamababa hanggang P50,000,” Baylon said.
Baylon recalled that year when the former Aquino administration issued a so-called traffic management crisis experimenting with solutions to decongest traffic in NCR. Public utility vehicles, mainly the traditional jeepneys, were put to blame amid such traffic conditions.
Under the Duterte administration along with former DOTr secretary Arthur Tugade promoted the “Tanggal Bulok, Tanggal Usok” policy on smoke belching and dilapidated jeepneys.
Progressive groups slammed this policy which was deemed a corrupt scheme to extort thousands of pesos from poor drivers who hardly earn at the height of the socio-economic crisis even worsened during the pandemic when jeepneys were forced to halt operations.
Now with the current Marcos Jr. administration, drivers and operators demand accountability at the time during the 2022 campaign period when Marcos Jr. promised to prioritize a bill setting a public transport consumers tax to fund the transport modernization program.
“Ito na ang tamang panahon para maningil sa mga rehimen ng estado na umuupo sa kasalukuyan. Kung hindi namin gagawin ito, papaano na lang ang sitwasyon ng mga driver at operator? Papaano nalang ang mga operator natin na aagawan ng prangkisa at ibibigay sa mga dayuhang monopolyo kapitalista?” Baylon demanded.
What can the government do?
Rehabilitation will secure, create more jobs rather than PUVMP. With the looming threat of phaseout due to PUVMP and DOTr’s omnibus guidelines, it surely will translate into a huge loss of jobs among PUV drivers and small-scale operators.
PISTON affirmed that they are not against modernization including an efficient mass transportation system. However, they pinpointed that such will never happen under private corporations.
They further added that PUVMP will ultimately lead to corporate monopoly where even the smallest car parts from screw up to the land terminals of vehicles would be controlled by private corporations, big businesses and foreign investors.
The transport group asserted the rehabilitation or upgrade instead of the modernization program.
“Sa rehabilitation, uunlad at yayabong ang ekonomya dahil lilikha pa ito ng mga trabaho,” said Baylon.
Baylon explained that there are more than 3,000 car parts in order to form a jeepney. He said that should there be a need to alter, fix, or upgrade to a jeepney then it will support local motor industries and upholsteries.
“Kung masira man yan, halimbawa itong alternator starter, mabubuhay ang pagawaan ng alternator starter. Kung ang siding ay nabangga, mabulok, papalitan natin ng mas makapal, GI16, GI 18. Edi maganda na naman iyan. Masira ang electrical, wiwiringan natin. Sa upholstery, ang mga foam, mabubuhay ang mga karpintero. Yong pagiging maculay ng ating mga jeep ay dahil sa mga pintor. Mabubuhay ang industriya natin sa lokal. Maraming trabahong lilikhain sa rehabilitation,” Baylon noted.
Promotion of local industries through rehabilitation. Before issues of modernization, local motor industries in the Philippines were established. But because of such economic policies and laws like the private-partnership program, TRAIN, Build Build Build (BBB) among others gave jurisdiction and powers to corporate takeovers.
PISTON noted that local traditional jeepney manufacturers were progressing. Such industries including the XLT in Pampanga, Sarao in Las Piñas, Morales in San Mateo, Francisco in Camarines Norte, Malaguena in San Pablo and the likes were the top local industries of traditional jeepneys which would be severely affected by phasing out under the guise of “modernization”.
In 2020, Ed Sarao of Sarao motors slammed the PUVMP, citing it as a political move rather than an attempt to improve public transportation in the country.
“I think the real reason is that the big operators, mostly backed by politicians, want to monopolise the industry. They’re the only ones who can afford to buy the vehicles,” Sarao said.
On the other hand, international manufacturers like the Australia-based solar company Star 8 Green Technology Corp offered the use of its electric and solar-powered jeepneys which further backed the PUVMP since 2015.
“Ang mga mauunlad na bansa, krisis na sila sa overproduction. Dahil overproduced, dito nila idinadala sa Pilipinas ang mga labis na produkto na hindi na naibebenta sa mga mauunlad na bansa. Ang epekto nito sa lokal na industriya ay babansot at matatalo sa kumpetisyon, hindi uunlad ang bansa natin,” Baylon explained.
Fund the rehabilitation and upgrading of jeepneys. Various organizations and progressive groups cited ways for the government to support genuine rehabilitation program rather than promoting “phaseout” under the PUVMP scheme.
According to Makabayan bloc, the government may suspend the reduction in corporate income tax under the CREATE Act, where the government will lose P115.8 billion in 2021 and P101.8 billion in 2022.
Meanwhile, Ibon Foundation deemed for the imposition of a “wealth tax” or tax of 1% on those who earn P1 billion, 2% on those who earn P2 billion, and 3% on those who earn P3 billion and above. It will raise P470 billion.
Bagong Alyansang Makabayan National Capital Region on the other hand called on for the abolition of National Task Force To End Local Communist Armed Conflict and the rechanneling of its 2023 P10 billion funds for the jeepney rehabilitation. The group also put into the limelight the whopping P203 billion estate taxes of Marcos family and the P250 billion startup investment for the controversial Maharlika Wealth Fund prioritized under the Marcos Jr. administration.
Issue an executive order to abolish DO 2017-011 on Omnibus Franchising Guidelines. It is only when Marcos Jr. administration would issue an executive order that the transport groups that will cease the transport strike.
“Kailangang ihinto ang implementation ng usapin ng 2017-011 na ito ang bogus at huwad na modernization program noon hanggang sa kasalukuyan,” said PISTON chairperson Mody Floranda.
Floranda along with several transport groups urged for the return of the five-year validity of their franchises.
It must be noted that LTFRB has only issued temporary permits and QR codes which were implemented at the time when public transport was limited due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Last February 28, Senate sought for the LTFRB to defer the said phaseout given the valid and urgent concerns raised by affected operators and drivers.