Jeepney modernization or costly amortization?
The two-day national transport strike on Oct. 16-17 in protest against the so-called public utility vehicle (PUV) modernization program, which in effect will phase-out jeepneys, is a legitimate exercise of people’s rights and worth public support.
The public has the right to protest and oppose government policies that are detrimental not only to people’s livelihood, particularly the estimated 300,000 directly affected drivers/operators nationwide, but will also enable corporations to cash in on the poor.
In June this year, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) launched the PUV modernization program, which requires operators to own at least 20 Euro-4 compliant jeepneys and to have market capitalization of at least P7 million. The DOTr said the government will contract giant multinational corporations like Toyota and Mitsubushi to locally manufacture the vehicles numbering to about 200,000 by 2020. Each vehicle will cost about P1.2-P1.6 million, to be loaned to the driver payable in seven years at 6 percent interest. The government, through a public bank, will cover the 5 percent but not more than P80,000 financing, and the driver will have to pay the rest.
This means that the driver will have to shell out at least P800/day from daily earnings in order to comply with such costly amortization. If earnings are not enough to cover the amortization, drivers will have to find additional resources.
Public commuters are often promised better services but are getting the exact opposite at higher rates, fees or fare. An example is MRT-3 whose “efficiency” has been used to justify the fare increase and use of beep cards to ease the horrors of riding it. The public need not look far. As e-jeep operations are privatized, corporations can increase minimum fare at their behest and without public hearing, and as in the case of MRT, the government can only comment or appeal, but cannot decide.
The PUV modernization plan is completely ignoring the reality that today, many jeepney drivers are earning only P200-P400 a day for 12-16 hours on the road. The option given them is to be in a condition of near perpetual debt while working in order to pay for a vehicle that probably after seven years will already be in a bad state.
We appeal for understanding and support from those whose travel was affected by the strike and enjoin them to be in solidarity by calling for an end to corporatization and monopoly of public services. Let us protect the livelihood and jobs of those dependent on jeepney transport, and call on the Duterte administration to come up with a plan for a government-run and operated mass transport system to ease the traffic and unburden commuters.
CTUHR Exective Director
Center for Trade Union and Human Rights
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