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By Floro L. Mercene

Floro M. Mercene

Since the government cannot afford to provide an efficient public transport system, it revived the tired idea of replacing dilapidated, privately operated jeepneys with modern ones.

The planned phaseout seeks to ban all public utility jeepneys (PUJs) 15 years old or more from plying the roads.

There has been strong opposition from the affected sector. The drivers said they can barely survive the “boundary” system, let alone set aside a portion of their meager earnings to pay for the new vehicle.

The militant operators and drivers held a nationwide strike last Oct. 16 and 17, protesting the government’s plan for them to immediately comply by January, or else.

The head of a transport group said they would continue staging mass actions on behalf of jeepney drivers and operators who would lose their livelihood under the “modernization program” sponsored by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB).

Under this scheme, current jeepney operators are given three years to replace their units with either electric or hybrid vehicles, or models that have passed Euro-4 emission standards.

Since these new units can cost from P1.2 million [no aircon] to P1.6 million [with aircon] each, exclusive of annual interest under a seven-year loan scheme. The government has set up various loan facilities to assist operators in the transition.

The state subsidy for the acquisition of new jeepneys is initially pegged at P2.26 billion for 28,000 units, translating to P80,000 per jeepney. This would mean that a driver or operator would need to shell out at least P800 per day for seven years to fully pay for the vehicles.

But instead of seven years, why not allow operators and individual owners to pay the new vehicle in 15 years so that the amortization is cut in half?

Instead of Toyota and Mitsubishi giants to make the cars, why not allow local manufacturers such as Sarao, Amante, and Francisco motors to join the fray?

Already, a party-list legislator is questioning the Comprehensive Automotive Resurgence Strategy, which requires car firms to produce within six years a minimum of 200,000 units of vehicles.

Malacañang insists drivers, operators, and commuters benefit under the modernization program.

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