Jeepney phaseout| Joblessness for drivers, bankruptcy for operators, higher fares for commuters

jeepney phaseout
Piston members belie the “glib, deceptive ‘assurances’ to the public by LTFRB member Aileen Lizada.” (Photo by Bulatlat.com)
Piston said most of the country’s jeepney drivers and operators are fine with upgrading and rehabilitating the jeepneys, but not in the total scrapping of it as advocated by the Transportation department.


By MARYA SALAMAT

Bulatlat.com

MANILA – “For the good of the many” – this sounds like the standard theme in the messaging of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) member and spokesperson Aileen Lizada concerning the phaseout of old jeepneys. But jeepney drivers and operators warned the public today, May 22, that transport officials like her are in fact only deceiving the public and the drivers and operators.

“What they are doing would only serve the interests of big capitalists who are out to corner and profit from the transport businesses in the Philippines,” said the leaders of Piston. They urged President Duterte to support national industrialization instead of letting in more wholly imported new and untried jeepneys. They also urged the government to implement instead a rehabilitation or upgrading program for current jeepneys with the participation of local operators, mechanics and jeepney assemblers.

On Monday May 22 the members of Pinagkaisang Samahan ng Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide (Piston) and the No to Jeepney Phaseout Coalition held a protest caravan from the Elliptical Road in Quezon Memorial Circle to the gates of the LTFRB in East Avenue, both in Quezon City, and they picketed the building housing the offices of the Department of Transportation in Ortigas, Mandaluyong City.

They denounced the deceptive packaging of the transport officials of the jeepney phaseout as “modernization”, and called attention to its silence on the massacre of jobs, small businesses and the looming fare hikes the program would entail.

jeepney phaseout
Drivers bat for rehab, upgrade of their current jeeps, but oppose the LTFRB’s drive to consign it all to the junkyard in favor of importing more expensive, untried units. (Photo by Bulatlat.com)

Packaged as “modernization program,” the Department of Transportation and Communication’s order to remove the old jeepneys plying Philippine streets, replace it with pricier newly constructed wholly imported units, and impose the corporatized running of jeepney transportation has, from the beginning, been opposed nationwide by jeepney drivers and operators.

This year, the protesters from various route-based associations of Piston and from other transport groups said their franchises have not yet been renewed even after they have filed applications as early as January.

Before Piston’s successful February transport strike, Lizada said, they have convinced the other “big transport groups” in the country about the jeepney modernization. She said “only Piston” has not yet understood it, and that Piston has “difficulties” in understanding “modernization.”

But in an interview this Monday, Piston national and local leaders in Metro Manila said Lizada may have received the nod of other transport leaders, some of which Piston branded as “yellow” or leaders engaged in compromising their members for a price, but the truth is, most of the members even of these transport groups are rallying behind the No to Jeepney Phaseout Coalition.

Piston said most of the country’s jeepney drivers and operators are fine with upgrading and rehabilitating the jeepneys, but not in the total scrapping of it as advocated by the Transportation department.

They said the order to scrap the jeepneys (reportedly released last April) surprised the other operators who had been “deceived” into thinking that just because the likes of Lizada assured them the jeepney will not be phased out, their jeepney will indeed not be phased out.

George San Mateo, national president of Piston, said in Lizada’s legalese, the jeepney will not be phased out, indeed, since the government calls its new vetted “modern” vehicles as also jeepney. But the jeepneys plying the roads now would be phased out still, to be replaced by the new imported jeepney, and run under fleet management programs benefiting the likes of Henry Sy, Manny V. Pangilinan, their representative Homer Mercado, and other big capitalists “eager to enter the transport businesses,” said San Mateo.

LTFRB data placed the number of legally registered jeepneys at 270,000 nationwide.

Local transport industry, commuters stand to lose big time

At the Elliptical Road, as they gathered for their scheduled protest caravan, different Piston leaders detailed how the local transport industry (jeepney and tricycle, for example) is forcibly being removed from small entrepreneurs for transfer to big corporations. San Mateo said the biggest losers are not just these drivers and operators but the riding public, through higher fares.

jeepney phaseout
Piston’s George San Mateo: ‘The LTFRB’s so-called modernization will inevitably result in higher fares.’

“The trouble with LTFRB spokesperson Lizada is that she’s not providing us with any term of reference documentation, so, she’s telling the drivers and operators and the media one thing and doing another,” said George San Mateo, national president of Piston.

Modesto Floranda, another official of Piston, said that no transport officials have held dialogues with them even though they have been repeatedly asking for it.

During their transport strike, there was an announcement that the transport officials would meet with Piston, but Floranda said nothing like that happened.

Because of the high cost of acquiring the Department of Transportation’s vetted “modern” jeeps (P1.6 million more or less per unit), it is “inevitable” that transport fares would increase, San Mateo said.

Its inevitability further increases the more the transport industry gets into the hands of a few big capitalists, which the Department of Transportation order to “modernize” the jeepney clearly seeks to do. According to Floranda, the said order says jeepney operators can start with 10 units to be awarded the franchise. By the next year, he or she is expected to have 20 units, and double that in the following year.

“If they don’t comply, they can be charged with abandonment of franchise,” Floranda said.

Clearly, he concluded, the intent is to kill the small business operators.

Another Piston leader, Ruben Baylon, secretary general of Piston-NCR, said during a speech that they have seen through the government “ploy” to withhold approval of updated jeepney franchise from January this year.

“They are collecting all franchises and the day will come when they would bid it all out, cruelly elbowing out the current small operators who have no P7 million required to buy the franchise.”

This is why LTFRB Chair Martin Delgra III can utter assurances that by 2020, there are no more old jeepneys, the Piston leaders said.

The drivers participating in the gathering agreed that they would rather keep their current jobs than accept the government “offer” or “promise” that they would “automatically” be recipients of the government dole out aid under 4Ps.

“Are we mad? We have jobs now but they want us to give it up to become beggars?” asked Floranda.

He disputed Lizada’s claims that most of the big transport organizations have agreed to their “modernization” program.

“Yung pangunahing sasalantain ay hindi payag,” (those who would be hit most are not in agreement with it), said Floranda, pointing to the rank and file members of the transport “dealers” who agreed to the terms of the transportation officials.

“Big business and the government officials in cahoots with them don’t want us to develop,” Baylon of Piston-NCR said. He blamed the neoliberal policy adopted by the Philippine government in drafting the so-called modernization program – in its adamant opposition to the local jeepney and transport industry’s positive desire to develop and instead impose a wholesale import-dependent jeepney.

Baylon said the bias against the small businesses, drivers and operators are also evident in the government’s definition of upgrade and rehab. It dictates that any old component inside the jeepney, even if these are still in tip top condition, would mean no Extension of Validity (EoV) of the operator’s franchise.

Felipe Sakyaten, an Igorot driver operator and mechanic who through hard work for over 20 years in Quezon City has helped him acquire two jeepneys, told Bulatlat that he hopes the government would field their ‘modern’ wholly imported jeeps with those currently running in the streets. Rather than implement the recent scrappage order. “Let’s see which is sturdier,” Sakyaten said. ()

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