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‘Jeepney drivers are not against modernization’

05:02 AM July 26, 2017

We in Agham-Advocates of Science and Technology for the People express our solidarity with Piston and other drivers and operators who oppose the jeepney phaseout hidden behind the veil of the government’s jeepney ‘modernization’ program. We support the call for the genuine modernization of the country’s mass transport system that is integrated with a comprehensive program for national industrialization.

The government’s Public Utility Vehicle (PUV) Modernization Program is a poor attempt at solving the problematic public transportation system in the country. The Department of Transportation’s Department Order No. 2017-011 (Omnibus Guidelines on the Planning and Identification of Public Road Transportation Services and Franchise Issuance), a major component of the said program, sets modernization standards for PUVs that are unreasonable in the present context and will ultimately lead to the corporate takeover of the PUV system, especially the jeepney industry.

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The historical characteristic of jeepneys as a recycled form of transportation, from refurbishing of leftover vehicles from World War II to the usage of surplus engines and diesel from Japan, is a manifestation of the country’s lack of an automotive industry. After decades of blatant neglect to develop the jeepney’s technology, the government is now pursuing a rushed and illusory modernization program.

The said order’s stringent requirement for public utility jeepneys (PUJs) and other PUVs to have the latest engines that are compliant with Euro 4 emission standards, GPS, automated fare collection system through Ayala-owned Beep™, and other capabilities are incompatible with the realities surrounding the current state of the country’s automotive industry, which is heavily reliant on imports and bogus technology transfer.

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Without an automotive industry that can sustain the creation of engines and other quality parts, the DOTr’s PUV modernization program will deepen our dependence on foreign technologies and machinery. The government is trying to divert the issue to the jeepneys, pitting small-time jeepney drivers against modernization. The truth is that the issue is not about modernization, but the corporate takeover of the public transport industry.

Public transportation is a social service that the government should provide to its citizens at a free or affordable cost. The corporatization of mass transport will only lead to higher costs to the consumers despite the lack of assurance of better service. We have seen this in the country’s train system: the LRT1, LRT2, MRT3 and now the planned MRT7 have been handed to corporate entities, removing the government’s control over a vital public service and leaving the public subject to the whims of the big corporations who control them.

The modernization of the country’s PUV system can only be possible if integrated with a plan for national industrialization that is synergistically linked to other forms of mass transport such as the rail and train systems. By developing our own transport industry, we would be able to develop strong linkages between industries. Supporting the localization of jeepney manufacturing is a concrete step toward developing the nonexistent automative industry, boosting employment as well as providing an effective and strategic mass transport system. This can only be done if there is a national industrialization program geared toward addressing domestic needs which will pave the way for the development of a safe, efficient and mass-oriented public transport system.

CLENG JULVE, campaign officer, Agham-Advocates of Science and Technology for the People

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TAGS: Agham-Advocates of Science and Technology for the People, Cleng Julve, Inquirer letters, Jeepney drivers, jeepney modernization program, jeepney phaseout, Piston, PUV modernization program
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