Unemployment, debt from jeepney modernization program worry transport groups

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(File photo)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 19) — Unemployment and huge debts were major concerns jeepney drivers aired Thursday to lawmakers over the impending jeepney modernization program.

Groups representing jeepney drivers and operators spoke before the House Committee on Transportation which held a hearing on the government's modernization program, which seeks to replace public utility vehicles that are more than 15 years.

George San Mateo, president of Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (PISTON), said this could be a ploy to increase vehicle sales of big automotive companies.

"Ang winawasiwas ng DOTr na Omnibus Franchising Guideline ay hindi modernisasyon kundi isang iskema para makabenta ng sasakyan ang mga malalaking korporasyon," he said.

[Translation: The Omnibus Franchising Guideine being waved around by the DOTr is not modernization, but a system for large companies to sell vehicles.]

"Layunin lang nitong pilitin kaming bumili ng mga bagong unit na hindi namin kayang bayaran," he added.

[Translation: It will force us to buy new units which we can't pay for.]

The Alliance of Concerned Transport Organizations said only foreign businessmen may benefit from the program since they will be the ones bringing in the solar- or electric-powered jeepneys favored by the Department of Transportation.

Federation of Jeepney Operators and Drivers Association of the Philippines president Zenaida Maranan, meanwhile said small-time jeepney operators may lose their jobs as cooperatives or operators with large fleets wll be the only ones given bank loans that will allow them to buy the new, environmentally friendly passenger jeepneys.

Transport groups also worried about the six percent interest on the loans offered by government banks to purchase the new jeepney. Melencio Vargas of the Alliance of Transport Operators and Drivers Associations of the Philippines (ALTODAP) asked that the interest rate be lowered from six percent to three percent.

The new jeepneys will each cost at least ₱1.3 million pesos (US$25,500.00).

A work in progress

Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) Chairman Martin Delgra said government agencies are working double time to roll out the jeepney modernization program.

Before the year's end, Delgra said the LTFRB will implement of the jeepney modernization program in two cities and one municipality in Metro Manila: Taguig, a portion of Pasay going to the SM Mall of Asia, and Pateros.

The pilot implementation will involve rolling out around 100 new jeepneys compliant with the transportation department's specifications such as having environmentally friendly Euro 4 engines, a speed limit device, global positioning system, and a dashboard camera.

Routes will also be reorganized depending on the commuters' needs.

Delgra said the LTFRB will continue dialogues with transport groups, but reiterated that the old jeepneys would no longer be used once the new vehicles are on the road.

President Rodrigo Duterte gave the jeepney drivers, who staged a two-day nationwide strike earlier this week, an ultimatum.

"I'll give you until the end of the month, or until the end of the year. Sumunod kayo. Because January 1, 'pag may nakita ako diyan na mga jeep ninyo na hindi narehistro, luma, guguyurin ko yan sa harap ninyo," he said in a speech Monday.

[Translation: I'll give you until the end of the month, or until the end of the year. Follow the law. Because on January 1, if I see your jeeps are unregistered, old, I will have them dragged in front of you.]

READ: Duterte to transport protesters: Modernize jeeps by year-end or get out

He also did not mince words when it came to those opposing it

"January 1, pag hindi niyo na modernize yan, umalis kayo. Mahirap kayo, p***** i**, sige. Magtiis kayo sa hirap at gutom, wala akong pakialam," he said.

[Translation: January 1, if you haven't modernized, get out. If you're poor, son of a b****. wallow in your misery and hunger, I don't care.]

Delgra said, "Yung sinasabi ng Presidente talaga is to express the urgency of the modernization program."

[Translation: What the President is saying is to express the urgency of the modernization program.]

CNN Philippines Senior Correspondent Ina Andolong and Digital Producer Pia Garcia contributed to this story.