Jeepney groups hold new protest vs. gov't plan to upgrade jeepneys

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 22) — Transport groups comprising jeepney drivers and operators began Monday a two-day nationwide protest to voice their opposition to the government's proposed public vehicle modernization plan.

Jeepney groups belonging to Piston and the "No to Jeepney Phaseout Coalition" said the protest was their bid to head off government's alleged plan to phase out jeepney units that are 15 years old and older.

The National Confederation of Transport Union earlier said that it was a two-day strike that would last until Tuesday.

However, Monday's protest seemed to have little impact on commuters, and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) said they received no reports of stranded passengers.

As of noon today, jeeps were still available to ferry commuters in Quezon City to their destinations.

In anticipation of commuters being stranded due to the jeepney protest, LTFRB board member Aileen Lizada said vehicles from the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police, Philippine Coast Guard, Department of Public Works and Highways and the Metro Manila Development Authority were deployed to provide free rides to commuters affected by the strike.

Transport regulators prefer to call the plan a "phase out," instead call it a modernization program for public utility vehicles.

In 2016, the then-Department of Transportation and Communication initiated the implementation of the jeepney phaseout to improve passenger safety and to promote the use of environment-friendly vehicles.

The department, which was renamed in May 2016 as the Department of Transport, said jeepneys that were more than 15 years old would have to be taken off the roads and be replaced with new vehicles such as electronic jeeps and those with combustible engines.

READ: Drivers, operators protest planned old jeepney phaseout

But affected drivers and operators said that even though their jeepneys were old, they remained roadworthy.

The Department of Transport (DOTr) is pushing for full implementation this year, with the aim of removing jeepneys that are 15 years old off the roads by 2018. However, no policy is in place yet to implement that.

Piston said 600,000 drivers and 200,000 operators nationwide will be affected by the program. Commuters in small towns that rely on jeepneys will also suffer, they said.

They're advocating for jeepney rehabilitation instead of replacement.

The government, through the Land Bank of the Philippines, has set up a credit facility of P1 billion to be made available to operators to buy new jeepneys.

In the House of Representatives, the so-called Traffic Crisis Act of 2016, or House Bill 4334, government plans to replace public utility vehicles, especially jeepneys, with new, environment-friendly versions.

The House approved the Bill in January 2017 and a statement released on January 23 said, "the bill will now be referred to the committee on appropriations for its funding provisions."

Section 2d of the Act mentions, "It is hereby declared the policy of the State to reform, modernize, and streamline the mass transportation systems to the end of attaining sustainable, organized, predictable, accessible, and safe networks of public transportation."

Section 24 states, "The DOTr Secretary, or upon delegation, the LTO shall work with established vehicle manufacturers to determine and conduct the appropriate road worthiness test and vehicle limitations (number of passengers, load limits) per type of vehicle."

The Senate has a counterpart bill titled the "Traffic and Congestion Crisis Act of 2016" filed in December 2016 which is still on second reading.