Transport official: Jeepney modernization program is not just about old vehicles

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 11) — In the urban jungles of the country, the iconic jeepney is at risk of extinction.

A government upgrade program promises environment-friendly features and new routes. But the transition might be too steep for drivers who say it might even drive them out of their jobs.

In one of the densest traffic in the world, is the jeepney modernization program for better or worse?

On Thursday, Transport Undersecretary for Roads Tim Orbos, Federation of Jeepney Operators and Drivers Association of the Philippines President Zenaida Maranan, and Stop and Go Coalition President Jun Magno talked to CNN Philippines about the government's jeepney modernization program.


Orbos said the modernization program is not about phasing out faulty units in exchange for so-called e-jeeps, as it is about enforcing a government standard.

The over 230,000 jeepneys nationwide are an integral part of the transit system. They are, however, plagued by issues which affect the sector, including busted headlights and reckless drivers.

These jeepneys, Orbos said, serve around a million commuters daily in Metro Manila alone - more than those served by buses, trains, and the MRT.

Orbos clarified there is no phaseout.

"What the President said very clearly sometime in November ay tanggalin na ang bulok na sasakyan pagdating ng January [remove dilapidated vehicles in January]," he said.

This, he added, gave rise to the project "Tanggal Bulok, Tanggal Usok."

The campaign for the Inter-agency Council for Traffic (I-ACT) formally kicked off in four areas in Metro Manila on January 8: EDSA, Quezon Avenue, Commonwealth Avenue, and Marcos Highway.

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The modernization is for the safety of passengers, Orbos said. Something that the government will not negotiate on.

Maranan said they did not oppose the modernization program, but there were some things that took them by surprise.

"Kami'y pumapayag na mag-modernize, pero nasan yung ipapalit?" she asked.

[Translation: We agree to the modernization, but where the vehicles that will replace old ones?]

Maranan said she approached Orbos to ask for leeway because if "Tanggal Bulok, Tanggal Usok" would be strictly followed, all their jeepneys would be off the road.

"Ang iisipin ng lahat ay parang na-phase out kami," she added.

[Translation: Everyone will think that we have been phased out.]

Magno said they were initially against modernization, but have since changed their position.

"Hindi kami tumututol doon. Ang hindi lang namin gusto doon, yung pipilitin ka ng 1.6 million, 1.8 million," he said.

[Translation: We are not opposing that. What we don't want is to be forced to pay 1.6 million, 1.8 million.]

The proposed e-jeepneys cost up to P1.6 million per unit.

RELATED: Jeepney modernization program kicks off next month

Magno said they were appealing for the suspension of "Tanggal Bulok, Tanggal Usok" so they can serve commuters. He claimed a lot of passengers have been left stranded because of the reduction of jeepneys deemed road-worthy.

The repair of jeepneys can take a while, Magno said.

Orbos said a "ceasefire" - as Magno called it - would not be possible as they were given three years notice prior to the modernization program.

He added, "Ang modernization program, hindi lang naan sa sasakyan. ito po ay isang ecosystem na dapat baguhin natin…sasakyan, isa; pangalawa, corporasyon; pangatlo, yung tinatawag na fleet management; pang-apat po young route rationalization."

[Translation: The modernization program isn't just about vehicles. It's an ecosystem that must be righted…the vehicle, the corporation, fleet management, and route rationalization.]

While there may be non-negotiables, he said "we are here to discuss this. We are not fighting with anyone."