Starting Jan. 1, thousands of jeepney drivers are on the brink of losing their livelihoods in service of the government’s Public Utility Vehicle (PUV) modernization program, which requires drivers to consolidate their franchises and adopt a modernized version of the iconic jeepney.
Though the Land Transportation Franchising Regulatory Board (LTFRB) has stated that drivers who have not consolidated their franchise can still ply through select routes until the end of the month, once there are consolidated drivers or cooperatives in the area, they will be replaced or only allowed to work for those with government permits.
According to transport group Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide (PISTON), around 140,000 jeepney drivers will be affected by the PUV modernization program.
Meanwhile, 60,000 Jeepney operators will also lose their source of income, as 65,000 Jeeps and 6,700 utility vehicles have yet to be part of the consolidation.
The highest student council of the University stands in solidarity with the jeepney drivers and urges the government to “reconsider” the modernization program.
In a statement released on Dec. 30, the Central Student Council said the phaseout of jeepneys will affect other industries, such as the artists designing the jeeps.
“We urge the government to reconsider the PUV Modernization Program, ensuring a fair, inclusive, and sustainable transition that prioritizes the well-being of operators, drivers, and its ancillary industries,” the council said.
They said preserving affordable modes of transportation is needed for individuals who depend on it.
A modern single jeepney, which can accommodate up to 24 passengers, is priced between P1.3 million and P3 million, with the jeepneys abandoning the colorful designs of the old model with one that looks like a minibus.
Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista said on Nov. 6 that the government will subsidize the purchase of modern jeepneys to P210,000 from P180,000.
Aside from its effects on drivers and their families, many commuters who rely on jeepneys within Metro Manila alone will be affected by the phaseout.
Unfortunately for drivers, this phaseout had been a long time coming.
The road to modernization
The first versions of the jeepney were made from the leftover Ford GPWs used in World War II, with the major changes in the design involving lengthening the body to accommodate more passengers.
With this storied history, the 80-year-old design of the jeepney has also been cited as a major pollutant in cities.
Modernization and subsequent phaseout of the old-school jeepney has been in the works since 2017 and was slated for implementation in 2020 as part of a bigger movement towards modernizing the country’s PUV system.
Due to the pandemic and other factors, the deadline for the jeepney phaseout has been extended to 2023, with December 31 being the final deadline.
The LTFRB has said that there will be no deadline extension.
Office of Transportation Cooperatives (OTC) Chairman Jesus "Andy" Ortega has said in an interview with Manila Bulletin that those who do not comply with the consolidation of franchises will be left to their own devices, reiterating the December 31, 2023 deadline.
"Matagal na naming sinabi sa kanila na firm ang deadline at inaffirm ito ng Presidente,” he said.
Many drivers and their cooperatives consolidated their franchises with the LTFRB at the last minute, as at least three groups had gone to the OTC for consolidation.
Even with the government standing firm on its deadline, bigger franchise groups such as PISTON and Manibela staged protests at the agency’s headquarters in Quezon City.
Meanwhile, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) said on Dec. 29 that jeepney drivers and operators affected by the modernization program can avail their services through their Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situation program.
In the wake of the phaseout, the artisans who work to create the iconic jeepney are also in jeopardy, as the modernized jeepney trades the colors of the old model for a stark white minibus-like vehicle.
Photo from EstriBoys Facebook Page
Their cost estimate for the bodywork is around 400,000-500,000 pesos, depending on whether the model is air-conditioned and can be installed with the newer Euro-4 engines for an extra fee.
Meanwhile, another local company is offering another cheaper alternative of a modernized Jeepney that costs only P985,000.
Elmer Francisco, chairman of Francisco Motors Corporation (FMC), said jeepneys are part of Philippine culture and should not be removed from the public as a mode of transportation.
Such a version of the modern jeepney can accommodate up to 30 passengers, with 22 seating while eight are standing.
The jeepney features a CCTV camera, dashcam, air conditioning, and a ramp for persons with disabilities. It also includes an automated collection system for the fare.
Photo from Elmer Francisco/Facebook
“Ang lifespan kasi ng Francisco jeepney goes beyond 15 years so maybe it's safe to say bayad na nila yan 10-15 years,” Francisco told CNN.
“Yung mga jeepney natin, it's part of our identity, it's part of our culture diba? Ang gaganda ng jeep natin mga makukulay,” he continued.