The Jeepney Modernization Program has been a hot topic for years now. It’s one of those proposals that sounds so good and sensible that I think anyone in their right mind would go for it. It seems to be a plan that is a long time coming, especially when you’re the type of person that cares for the environment. So why would anyone go against it? Why stop progress?
…that was what I was thinking about six years ago.
When I wrote this, I really thought it was a smart and funny statement. Imagine a group of people protesting against modernization and the modern world just doesn’t care enough. To me back then, the protest was nothing but a farce: an attempt to tell people that they are still needed when in fact (at least I thought it was a fact) people have already moved on, and they got better transport options than jeepneys.
I encountered resistance when I posted this. That’s understandable, I thought. Some people still believe that they’re still necessary. Perhaps I was way too harsh. I felt a little bad about it. But I never deleted it, because I believe I was right. But to humor the idea, I did a little more digging.
Two days later, I posted this:
At this point, my idea about the modernization program just got firmer. I just can’t fathom why would anyone go against positive change. I thought, either their union leaders are lying to them or they were just a bunch of idiots for not being able to move on.
Things change and people come and go, I said. Factory workers started to lose their jobs when modern machines were introduced. People lose their jobs in the name of progress, and that’s okay. People get hired and fired every day. So why are these people complaining? They can just get a different job. Perhaps they can start something better than driving around all day?
Days, months, and years went by. I was able to talk to more people. I interacted with people from different parts of society. I learned more about them. By doing this, I was able to understand why the Jeepney Modernization Program is not as simple as I thought.
Back in 2017, The Department of Transportation’s (DOTr) plan was to mandate the phaseout of jeepneys aged fifteen (15) years or older, to be replaced by more modern jeepneys, which are more environmentally friendly and more fuel-efficient. It involves the use of Euro 4-powered engines or electrically-powered motors. To make things better, there were even proposals to add certain creature comforts to the modern jeepneys, such as a WiFi hotspot.
It all sounds fine and dandy until you realize how much is a modern jeepney. We’ll get back to this part later.
Fast forward to 2023, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) released a memorandum circular mandating all jeepney drivers to be a part of a “consolidated entity” to be able to continue their operations. LTFRB said that they’ll only allow individual traditional jeepneys to operate until the 30th of June, but then extended the deadline to the 31st of December after a major backlash.
Again, consolidation may sound good at first. But think about this. A consolidated entity could either be a cooperative or a corporation. According to the Office of Transportation Cooperatives, at least Php 750,000 is necessary to start a cooperative of 15 operators. Now, according to this article in the Philippine Star, jeepney drivers earn a gross daily earning of Php 2,250 to Php 2,500. This gross earning is what a jeepney driver gets without considering his other expenses like diesel fuel (which is really expensive these days) and other things. Also, we need to consider the fact that some of these drivers are just using someone else’s vehicle. Before they can even earn money for themselves and their families, they need to hit the “boundary” first. Even with the government subsidies they’re getting, considering daily expenses and other money-sucking accidents such as when the jeepney breaks down, how can a jeepney driver pitch in to collect that 750k?
This is just about the driver having the right to operate. We’re not talking about the jeepney yet.
Under this consolidation mandate, cooperatives and corporations will also be required to scrap their old fleet and buy new jeepneys at a certain point. This is where the PUV modernization program is rearing its head.
Going back to the cost of the modern jeepney. Certain sources say that these new jeepneys can cost from Php 1.3 million for the refurbished ones, up to as much as Php 2.5 million. If jeepney drivers are already having a hard time pitching in on a Php 750,000 price tag to merely operate, how can you expect them to pay for more than a million?
Now, the government says state-owned banks are offering loans. But this option is not exactly for an ordinary jeepney driver.
One, how can you expect a jeepney driver to pay for a loan this big? How long will they pay for it?
Two, even for people like us who earn a stable income, filing a loan is a hit-or-miss affair. Jeepney drivers’ earnings are turbulent and unpredictable, and any bank’s objective is to make more money. So I don’t think they’re willing to take this risk for all of our jeepney drivers.
Something bothered me as I read about these things, particularly the part where a consolidated entity could either be a cooperative or a corporation. People with money can just start a corporation, buy lots of modern jeepneys, hire some drivers, and make a profit. This appears to be the government (inadvertently or intentionally) giving the power to private entities again. What I’m trying to say is anyone with enough money to start a corporation can easily kick out old jeepneys from the road. Unfortunately, a common Filipino won’t even bat an eye because as long as they can go from point A to point B, Filipinos will have nothing to say. Rich people will get richer and more powerful again, leaving our old jeepney drivers to rot.
One might mention that these private companies can just hire these drivers who lost their franchises, to which I say bless your heart and I hope I have as much optimism as you.
Transport strikes are still happening as I was writing this. This consolidation and modernization mandates have been delayed several times now, and it looks like the government is losing its patience.
I guess at this point, I need to ask myself: what do you think about this consolidation and modernization, and do you think the cries of the people are justified?
With regard to consolidation and modernization, while I agree that it should be done at some point, I don’t believe what the government is doing is the best way to do it. By asking these people to change their way of making their livelihood, they’re practically asking these drivers a huge favor. Sure, it’s the government that’s mandating it and we should just follow the government. But what is the government’s purpose? Isn’t it to uphold the interests of everyone, not just a few?
So if they’re really serious about doing this, they should make the offer more lucrative for these people. No one should argue that the government has no money. We got a lot of money. They just go to the wrong things and the wrong people.
Incentivize replacing the old jeepneys. The government should standardize the modern jeepney with jeepney drivers in mind, have local fabricators build them, and sell them at a cheaper price. Better yet, they can just let the Local Government Units (LGUs) take over, make them come up with their own jeepneys, and encourage local jeepney drivers to work for their LGUs. I’m sure the government can come up with better ideas than this if they’re really serious about making positive changes.
As for whether the people’s outrage is well-founded or not, I should say it is. I was wrong about saying that they’re idiots who can’t move on. When your livelihood is on the line, it’s not easy to just accept the situation. It doesn’t matter if they’re needed or not. The point here is, a lot of these people are about to lose their jobs. A lot of people online are saying it’s for “the greater good”. I say it’s easy to say that when you’re not the one about to lose a job.
To all the jeepney drivers who are fighting for their lives right now, I’m sorry for being such an idiot. I hope you get the deal that you deserve eventually. If not, I hope and pray that you find a better opportunity elsewhere.
But for now, allow me to say this:
Bien is a software engineer for more than 10 years, focusing on Microsoft .NET technology. He developed solutions ranging from embedded systems to accounting systems. He spends his free time trying to understand the world and its people.