Transport groups concerned about PUV phaseout

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Jeepney operators and drivers warned on Wednesday that they plan to hold a nationwide transport holiday if Congress grants a proposal to phase out public-utility vehicles (PUV) 15 years old and above.

The Department of Transportation (DOTr) is pushing the proposal as part of the bill granting emergency powers to President Rodrigo Duterte to solve the transport crisis.

Read: DOTr to Senators: Emergency powers needed to ease traffic

Transport officials said the phaseout is meant to modernize public transportation.

But the Stop & Go Transport Coalition said the proposed move would remove 90% of the country's jeepneys from the roads nationwide, leaving around 80,000 in operation.

The group said in Metro Manila alone, 54,000 drivers would lose their livelihoods and leave a huge gap in the transport system.

"Natatakot kami sa emergency power na balakin ng gobyerno para sa amin," said jeepney operator Melchor Estacio. "Kami naman po ay sumusoporta sa ating mahal na Pangulo, nakikisama sa kanyang layunin para sa sambayanang Pilipino. Pero 'di namin inaasahan na ganito ang kapalit."

[Translation: We're afraid of the emergency powers that the government is planning to use on us. We support our beloved President and join him in his goals for the Filipino people. But we didn't expect that this is what we would have to give up in exchange.]

Operators want the Transportation department to find ways to ease the burden of buying new PUVs. They said the DOTr's proposal to give them loans from Land Bank of the Philippines is not acceptable because not all of them can meet the loan requirements.

Meanwhile, commuters have mixed reactions to the plan.

"Siguro nga mas okay 'yun kasi nga dun sa sinasabi nila pollution," said commuter Robert Gomez. "The best 'yun kasi meron ata silang ibibigay dun sa mga taong maapektohan. Bibigay hulugan."

[Translation: I think the proposal is okay because of pollution. It's the best measure because I think the government will give money to those who will be affected.]

"Mahirapan po siyempre," said commuter Joven Aninaw. "Siyempre yung mga kapos, ano na po yung alternate na sasakyan nila?"

[Translation: It will be difficult, of course. If there aren't enough vehicles, what alternate rides can commuters use?]

Gradual transition

DOTr spokesperson Cherie Mercado assured commuters and jeepney operators that they have nothing to worry about. She said there will be a gradual transition designed to minimize the impact.

"We are not here to choke the livelihood of a lot of people especially our drivers," she said. "We would like to modernize our fleet for safety and for the environmental compliance. Lahat po tayo makikinabang dito [All of us will benefit from this]."

The Transport department said they will come out with guidelines as soon as they finish their study.

Previous phaseout proposals

The phaseout plan is nothing new.

In 2012, the Aquino administration began a push to reinvent the jeepney by introducing e-jeepneys - which are said to be more cost efficient end eco-friendly. Then-DOTC Secretary Mar Roxas also said they would reduce the age limits of PUVs over time.

In January 2016, former Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board Chair Winston Ginez said a mandatory phaseout would begin in 2017.

CNN Philippines Digital Producer VJ Bacungan contributed to this report.