It’s high time that the phase out of jeepneys with engines over 15 years old is implemented. These are, after all, public utility vehicles (PUVs) responsible for bringing Filipino commuters safely to their destinations.
Jeepneys are an icon of the Philippine transport sector, showing the Filipino’s creative energies when it was transformed from the army jeeps of post World War II to the colorful passenger vehicles found in almost all parts of the country.
But they also remind us of the stubbornness of Filipinos to change for the better. Despite being uneconomical to operate (is there a jeepney driver who became rich from this job?) and its being a threat to the safety and health of the general public, the jeepney has persisted and survived for over six decades.
Jeepneys, usually running on surplus old engines discarded in other countries, are notorious for their harmful emissions, are regarded as generally uneconomical to operate, and are usually ill-maintained (balding tires, leaking oil, overheating radiators).
With the age ceiling set by the Department of Transportation (DOTr) on commuter jeepneys, some 200,000 vehicles are to be affected, and will be subject to a phase out over a three-year period.
While there have been protests from jeepney drivers, it seems that the government is all set to roll out its PUV Modernization Program. Recently, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) signed up an initial package with the Land Bank of the Philippines for P2.2 billion.
This will cover for the initial purchase amount of P80,000 needed by a jeepney driver to replace his old PUV. Amortization at 6 percent per year over seven years will be pretty much around P800 per day, roughly the ongoing boundary rates these days.
Jeepney drivers may choose to purchase either an air-conditioned electric, hybrid, or Euro-4 jeepney that will be manufactured locally following a DOTr design.
Some 250 jeepney drivers will benefit from a pilot subsidy this year. The Department of Finance and the Department of Budget and Management have allotted P20 million for three cooperatives plying the routes Senate-Philippine International Convention Center, Taguig-Pasig and Pateros-Fort Bonifacio.
Channeling incentives from CARS
The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), on the other hand, is looking at the possibility of diverting P9 billion earlier allotted to the Comprehensive Automotive Resurgence Strategy (CARS) program, but has remained unused.
So far, only Toyota Motors Philippines Corporation and Mitsubishi Motors Philippines Corporation have availed of the P9 billion-worth of incentives to the CARS program signed into law in 2015.
Interested manufacturers of the newly designed and approved jeepneys would benefit from any incentives that the DTI and the Board of Investments (BOI) could commute to the PUV Modernization program.
This would not only make the cost of replacing the phased-out vehicles more affordable for jeepney drivers or cooperatives, this could also help in building and strengthening the local downstream automotive manufacturing capabilities.
In the meantime, out homegrown but bullish electric jeepney manufacturing sector is looking keenly at further expanding its market to include the jeepney PUVs.
So far, e-jeepneys have been successfully operating in a controlled environment like the Makati and Cubao commercial districts and certain areas of Puerto Princesa. Going out into the rough-and-tumble urban jungles, like that of Metro Manila, remain a big challenge.
At the moment, the characteristic of having a highly individualized network of jeepney drivers operating in the metropolis continues to be the biggest stumbling block to its successful operations.
The Makati Green Pasada, for example, is a franchise where the operations is tightly controlled by the operator. The e-jeepney drivers are paid daily wages, have set hours of operations, and utilize a system of sharing batteries to keep the whole network moving.
E-jeepneys long-term benefits
One recent issue borne from an e-jeepney bursting into flames two years ago has also widened the debate on its safety. Thankfully, this seems to be an isolated case, and more importantly, could easily be remedied if one were to weigh the overall benefits of going electric in PUVs.
Looking at things from a long-term perspective, the benefits, however, outweigh the cons. Definitely thumbs up for the environment because these e-jeepneys don’t spew harmful toxic emissions that account for pretty much all of the respiratory issues of metro commuters.
Our e-jeepney manufacturers create new jobs as well as improve their capabilities in manufacturing vehicle parts that the local automotive industry needs, and may, in the long run, export this to other countries.
It puts a new and interesting twist to the jeepney icon, which has been in the minds of the world inseparable to the Filipino psyche. This time, the jeepney will not be a smog machine that spews deathly fumes and poses as a safety hazard to people on the street.
It will still be uniquely the Philippines’ jeepney, but with a respectable green sheen. If the newly rolled out omnibus franchising guidelines are to be considered, new jeepneys would have at least Euro 4-compliant engines but with a host of comfort and safety features.
These include accessibility to both senior citizens and persons with disability, CCTV cameras, GPS, automatic fare collection system, Wi-Fi, speed limiters and dashboard cameras. Doesn’t these all sound cool for the re-faced jeepney, especially in the eyes of visiting tourists?
Best of all, it will mean that we Filipinos are capable of instituting change, even if it’s a couple of decades late. Perhaps, there is indeed hope for this nation of 100 million people to find solutions to their daily problems and look forward to seeing a better future.