Drivers, operators protest planned old jeepney phaseout

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Hundreds of jeepney drivers and operators oppose the government's plan to modernize the country's transportation sector by phasing out old jeepneys.

Led by the No to Jeepney Phaseout Coalition, drivers and operators from different parts of the country held a transport caravan on Tuesday (March 1) from Quezon City to the office of the Land Transportation and Franchising Regulatory Board (LTFRB) along East Avenue.

Their final stop was at the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) in Ortigas.

"Ang gusto nila mangyari ay kontrolin ang aming kabuhayan.. ito po ang masaklap sa aming mga operators," Anselmo Perweg, spokesperson of the "No to Jeepney Phaseout Coalition"said.

[Translation: "They want to control our livelihood...and this hurts operators."]

The DOTC initiated the implementation of the jeepney phaseout to improve passenger safety and to promote the use of environment-friendly vehicles.

DOTC said jeepneys had to keep up with the times. Those that were more than 15 years old would have to be taken off the roads and be replaced with new vehicles such as electronic jeeps and those with combustible engines.

But affected drivers and operators said that even though their jeepneys were old, they remained roadworthy.

The DOTC is mulling a voluntary implementation of the new rule this year, while full implementation begins next year. Come 2018, jeepneys that are more than 15 years old shouldn't be seen on the roads.

However, no policy is in place yet to implement that.

DOTC said what they have was just a draft order and they're still in the middle of consultation with stakeholders.

Transport group Piston national president, George San Mateo, said the jeepney phaseout scheme would affect more than 600,000 drivers and 250,000 operators.

"Kapag pinirmahan yan, wala talaga kaming choice kundi magsagawa ng isang massive na nationwide strike.. yun na ang aming huling baraha dyan," San Mateo said.

[Translation: "If signed, we would have no choice but to stage a massive, nationwide strike...that would be our last card."]