'Roadworthy' old jeepneys allowed to run until 2020

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 2) — Jeepneys above 15 years old will still be allowed to ply their routes until 2020 — but they have to pass a roadworthiness test first.

"The 15-year-old aspect, hindi na nga ho namin iniintindi muna [we're not worrying about that yet] because if we do, all the jeepneys will have to go out. So we're looking at roadworthiness," Transport Undersecretary Tim Orbos told CNN Philippines' The Source Tuesday.

He said, however, all jeepneys will have to be new within three years as planned.

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier demanded that all jeepneys above 15 years old be phased out by January. However, transport regulators have since clarified the move will be gradually implemented in phases.

The government plans to run a new line of electric- or solar-powered e-jeepneys, a move which was met with protests from some jeepney operators who believe the program is expensive and would leave many drivers jobless.

Under the program, old jeepneys must meet government requirements as determined by a motor vehicle inspection system (MVIS) before they can resume plying their routes.

The MVIS assesses a vehicle based on points, measuring a vehicle's roadworthiness based on emission, brakes, suspension, and lights among others.

Orbos said the government has two of the machines: one at the central Land Transportation Office in Quezon City, and another at the airport.

"We have 26 machines arriving within the first quarter of this year, and that will take care of the implementation nationwide," Orbos added.

The first phase of the MVIS scan will be rolled out in Metro Manila. When operators register, they are expected to bring their vehicles.

He said enforcers will also flag down jeepneys that violate requirements.

"If we see a public transport vehicle that is smoke belching, has no lights... papatigilin po namin iyan [we will stop them], we will ask them to go immediately to the testing centers," said Orbos.

"If they don't pass, then they cannot continue plying the routes," he added.

The first phase of the MVIS scan will be rolled out in Metro Manila, Orbos said.

When operators register, they are expected to bring their vehicles.

However, jeepney operators can start running e-jeepneys that comply with requirements and features determined by the government.

Modern e-jeep features

Around 500 modern e-jeepneys nationwide are expected to hit the roads this month.

The new e-jeeps boast features that include:

Solar / Electric powered

Free Wi-Fi

CCTV camera

Global navigation satellite system

Fare card reader

Speed limiter

New features like a ramp and a space at the front of the vehicle are also built to accommodate persons with disabilities.

The new e-jeepneys are divided according to the following categories:

Class 1 - 9 to 22 passengers; all seated;

Class 2 - More than 22 passengers; with standing;

Class 3 - More than 22 passengers; all seated;

Class 4 - More than 22 passengers; all seated; with cargo

Class 1 vehicles are for short routes, while Class 4 vehicles are for longer trips to provinces. Class 3 jeepneys are expected to have air conditioning.

Jeepneys under Class 1 are estimated to cost between PhP 700,000 to P800,000 each. While those under Classes 2, 3, and 4 cost between P1 million to P1.6 million.

Orbos added that fixed wages for jeepney drivers will also be in place. They are expected to earn P21,000 in net salary a month, on top of government benefits.

The government is also set to regulate work hours for drivers in order to prevent them from competing too much for passengers at a given time of the day.

"The regular driver now will drive more than 14 hours a day. (Under the program) we will not allow them to drive more than 10 hours. But they can have two shifts," the undersecretary said.

While Orbos said jeepney fares would not be affected because of the program, fares will still be affected by the newly approved tax hike on excise fuel, which is expected to take effect this month.