October 16 marks the third transport strike of the transport group Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operators Nationwide (PISTON) this 2017.
PISTON launched a two-day nationwide strike to protest the government’s Public Utility Vehicle modernization program (PUVMP). On June 19, the Department of Transportation (DoTr) officially launched the PUVMP that mandates the replacement of jeepneys that are 15 years or older.
The proposed “modernization” program proposes the replacement of jeepneys by those powered by Euro 4 engines or electrically-powered engines with solar panels for roofs. Around 180,000 jeepneys need to be replaced according to Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) Chairman Martin Delgra,
Transport groups led by PISTON expressed opposition to the PUVMP because it would only destroy the livelihood of over 600,000 jeepney drivers and operators nationwide.
PISTON estimates the price of a brand-new e-jeep at P1.4 million per unit, which would be financially impossible for drivers whose average salary is around P400 a day. The proposed “fleet management system” for the modernization program also mandates a minimum of 10 units of e-jeeps per franchise which are highly inaccessible for small and independent operators.
DoTr and LTFRB addresses the “anti-poor” argument against the PUVMP through the launch of a financing program under DBP and Land Bank. The program allows jeepney operators and drivers to purchase e-jeepneys worth at least P1.4 million with 6-percent annual interest. Borrowers are expected to pay P800 a day over a seven-year period—twice the estimated take home pay of jeepney drivers today.
The transport strikes are not an expression of opposition to modernization of PUVs but to the DoTr’s abandonment of its constitutional duty to provide a safe, efficient and affordable mass transport system as a public service, PISTON said in a statement.
Meanwhile, progressive group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) acknowledges the need to improve the quality of PUVs but also argues that the phaseout program would lead to a loss of livelihood for small operators and drivers.
“Instead of phasing out PUJs, the government should promote modernization through the nationalization of an affordable, safe and efficient mass transport system. The government can start by taking back the MRT and LRT from the Ayalas and Pangilinans and improve its operations to cover the riding public mass transport needs,” PISTON said.
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