DTI unveils plans for modern jeepney

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The Department of Trade and Industry says the proposed "Philippine Utility Vehicle" complies with international safety standards.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 28) — After over half a century, the Philippines' "king of the road" may soon take on an entirely new form.

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said in a June 27 press conference that it is drafting possible designs for a prototype of a modern jeepney.

The so-called "Philippine Utility Vehicle" will be able to accommodate at least 22 passengers, with some seated and others standing.

Notable design changes include moving the entrance from the rear to the right side of the vehicle and replacing the side-facing seats with front-facing seats equipped with seat belts.

The DTI's announcement comes after the DOTr said on June 19 that the Public Utility Vehicle (PUV) Modernization Program will kick off in July 2017 despite objections from some jeepney operators.

Read: Jeepney modernization program kicks off next month

The program also includes the phasing out of PUVs that are over 15 years old, which will be replaced by vehicles with "low-carbon and low-emission technology."

The DOTr cited jeepneys as the "biggest source" of carbon-dioxide emissions, excess amounts of which contribute to air pollution.

Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) spokesperson Aileen Lizada told CNN Philippines that there are around 204,000 jeepneys operating nationwide, with an estimated 75 percent of these over 15 years old.

The DTI said it was tapped by the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to come up with the basic structure and measurements of the prototype.

However, the DTI stressed that the designs are all initial sketches that will be open to public comment until August 2017 before being submitted to the DOTr, which will then make the final decision on how and where the new jeepneys will be manufactured.

Lizada said the LTFRB hopes to meet the DTI in July to discuss the designs.

She also said once the DOTr approves the final specifications, these will be given to local vehicle body builders that must produce their own prototype.

Lizada added that by September 2017, the government will choose a winning manufacturer, which will receive a grant to produce the vehicle.

Live-saving design

DTI Assistant Secretary Ernesto Perez, officer-in-charge of the agency's Bureau of Product Standards, said the design complies with United Nations (UN) safety standards.

"The Bureau of Public Standards represents the country in international standards organizations," he told CNN Philippines. "Developments in standards-making and the setting up of product standards are under us."

He added that the current jeepney's design, which has remained largely unchanged for half a century, cannot pass UN standards.

"Walang seatbelt, parallel-facing (yung mga upuan) na masyadong malaki yung space sa gitna [There are no seatbelts and the seats are parallel-facing with a large space in the middle]," he said.

According to the 2015 World Health Organization Global Status Report on Road Safety, seatbelts for rear occupants can reduce the risk for fatal and serious injuries by 25 percent, while reducing the risk of minor injuries by a whopping 75 percent.

But although front and rear passengers in private vehicles are required to wear a seat belt under Republic Act 8750 or the "Seat Belts Use Act of 1999," only front passengers are required to wear it in PUVs.

In addition, former LTFRB chair Alberto Suansing — now Secretary General of the Philippine Global Road Safety Partnership, a non-government organization that helps develop road-safety policy — told CNN Philippines that the position of the door on the current jeepney could endanger passengers, especially when they are dropped off in the middle of the road.

"A vehicle following too closely could hit a commuter," he said. "We've received a lot of complaints of commuters being hit by vehicles. It was during my time (as LTFRB chair) that we started conditioning the minds of PUV operators to change the position of the door to better protect passengers."

From new cars to new PUVs

In a June 27 Malacanang press briefing, DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez said ₱9 billion from the Comprehensive Automotive Resurgence Strategy (CARS) Program may be reallocated to the PUV Modernization Program.

"That is in support of generating more modern, safer, more comfortable public-utility vehicles that will benefit many more Filipinos," he said.

Executive Order 182 or the CARS Program was signed into law by President Benigno Aquino III in May 2015.

The law aims to strengthen the local car manufacturing industry by giving ₱9 billion each to three carmakers, which must each produce around 33,000 cars a year in the Philippines for six years, for a total of 600,000 cars from the program.

The DTI said the program is expected to create 200,000 jobs, rake in an estimated ₱27 billion in investments and implement industry regulations that would revitalize the Philippine automotive industry.

So far, the country's two largest carmakers, Toyota Motors Philippines Corporation and Mitsubishi Motors Philippines Corporation, have signed on to the program.

This story was produced under the Bloomberg Initiative Global Road Safety Media Fellowship implemented by the World Health Organization, the Department of Transportation and VERA Files.

Department of Trade and Industry DTI