DOTr: Public transport should not be seen as means of livelihood

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 19) — View public transport as a service rather than a business, a transport official said.

Transportation Assistant Secretary Mark de Leon on Wednesday sent out a message to all public vehicle operators, saying it's high time for the country to have an efficient public transportation system.

"Mahirap na sabihin mo na this is a source of livelihood, kasi nga number one binigyan ka ng estado ng prankisa to operate a public transport service," De Leon told reporters during an economic briefing in Malacañang.

[Translation: It's hard to call this as a source of livelihood because number on, the state gave you a franchise to operate a public transport service.]

"It should be treated as a public transport service instead of a livelihood business," he said. "Pag tiningnan natin 'to as a means of livelihood, nandoon na nagbo-boil down ang problema natin sa efficiency. Nandoon na yung problema ng individual operator thinking na (kapag) nakuha ko na yung boundary ko, kailangan ko na umuwi."

[Translation: When we look at this as a means of livelihood, this is where our inefficiency problem appears. There's this thinking of an individual operator, wherein if he achieves his boundary for the day, then he can go home already.]

The Transportation Department said it hopes to get more than 170,000 old jeepney units off the streets by 2020.

This comes in the wake of the administration's public utility vehicle (PUV) modernization program, which has been labeled by transport groups and netizens as "anti-poor."

De Leon, however, believes there will be no major displacement of drivers, as the government plans to offer livelihood programs and training for the would-be affected operators.

Death of an icon?

Another criticism the jeepney phaseout program faced was how it attempts to erase the jeepney icon that has been an integral part of the Philippine culture.

De Leon revealed that the manufacturers are currently veering away from the "iconic jeepney look" to establish a more modern, mini-bus feel for the vehicles. But he said the government is not closing its doors on preserving the iconic jeepney design.

"We're not closing the doors to that old, iconic jeepney look, may mga suppliers pa rin na building that iconic look. Pero yung mga operators, sila ang namili ng kanilang mga ipu-purchase," he said.

[Translation: We're not closing the doors to that old, iconic jeepney look, there are still suppliers building that iconic look. The operators are the ones choosing the vehicles they will purchase.]

"Go to Iloilo, go to Davao, go to Cebu, kakaunti nalang ang iconic jeepney look doon. But the commuters there are not complaining. Kasi ang mas importante sa kanila ay yung availability ng public transport," he added.

[Translation: Go to Iloilo, go to Davao, go to Cebu. There remains only a few iconic jeepneys there. But the commuters there are not complaining, because what's important for them is the availability of public transport.]

The modernization program aims to phase out vehicles that are 15 years old and above by 2020. Authorities, by then, will only issue franchises to operators with jeeps that have environment-friendly engines as well as security features.