Submitted to the Committee on Public Utilities, Senate of the Philippines
AGHAM – Advocates of Science and Technology for the People believes that efficient and affordable, safe, reliable, efficient, clean transport services is a public utility which the government has the obligation to provide. Serving multiple linkages, a mass transportation system is crucial in setting up a dynamic and industrial economy.
The lack of an efficient means for moving people and goods from one point to another in urban centers in the Philippines brought about by the failure of government to establish a real public-sector owned and controlled mass transport system is filled-in and satisfied by informal public transport such as jeepneys, tricycles, taxis, and even TNVS such as Uber and Grab. Jeepneys and these other forms have become the main provider of transportation services instead of our commuters relying on public-sector provided services.
Decades of conflicting roadmaps and policies on developing mass transport, coupled with privatization schemes of the existing systems (e.g. MRT/LRT), unplanned and unregulated urban growth and the stark disparity between rural and urban development have resulted to the chaotic transport situation that we now have.
Without a clear alternative for a mass transport solution, the government should instead support and subsidize existing informal public transport alternatives especially jeepneys which has taken up the slack and provided sorely needed services for our commuters.
Being the cheapest, jeepneys provide services for most of our riding public especially the low income working class. On the other hand, the worsening public commute manifested by long queues, rail glitches and the likes compels middle-income class to use private cars adding to traffic congestion.
The government should not burden the small drivers and operators with expensive alternatives and financing schemes and should instead be helping them by pro-actively replacing their vehicles with minimal or no-cost to them.
However, the PUV Modernization Program through the Omnibus Franchising Guidelines (OFG) which seeks to “modernize” jeepneys forces drivers to replace them with new ones by passing the burden of the unreasonable cost to the drivers which only leads to corporate take-over of the PUV system. The government has failed us by not providing public-sector rails or mass transport and is now punishing jeepney drivers with its OFG.
The PUV modernization program must be socially just to benefit both the small drivers and operators and the riding public alike while being environmentally sustainable and viable.
Instead of imposing a stringent policy which potentially kills their livelihood, jeepney drivers and operators can be offered a range of options in accordance to their needs and capacities under a programmatic modernization scheme:
- Instead of phasing out public utility jeepneys 15 years and older, transportation agencies should evaluate jeepneys based on roadworthiness and identify units that can be rehabilitated. The government should provide financial assistance for rehabilitation and maintenance costs.
- To minimize acquisition costs, the government can procure replacement units for dilapidated jeepneys in bulk and be made available to drivers and operators at an affordable amount and reasonable payment mechanisms. Government can repurpose these vehicles for use in tractors or the like.
- Technology transfer of acquired imported units must be ensured to promote the development of our own local automotive industry. Without an automotive industry that can sustain the creation of engines and other quality parts, the PUV modernization program will further only our dependence on foreign technologies and machineries.
Long terms solutions should also be set. The modernization of the country’s PUV system can only be possible if integrated with a plan for national industrialization that is synergistically linked to other forms of mass transport such as the rail and train systems.
- By developing our own transport industry, we would be able to develop strong linkages between industries. Supporting the localization of jeepney manufacturing is a concrete step towards developing the presently non-existent automotive industry, boosting employment as well as providing an effective and strategic mass transport system. The current CARS program of the government must be reoriented towards manufacturing of PUVs instead of primarily producing private cars. The government should provide support to local manufacturers including small “backyard” manufacturers rather than favoring foreign owned companies inside the country.
- Aside from supporting the informal public transport, the government should invest in formal mass transport such as rails. Studies have shown that government investment in formal transit modes benefits commuters such as in the case of Brazil where commuters roughly benefited 100 to 200 dollars per commute per year (Golub et al., 2009).
In the pursuit of resolving our transportation woes, the government should pursue a comprehensive program for mass transport system that will serve the needs of national industrialization and rural development, facilitate regional dispersal, and is affordable to low-income working people. This program shall be oriented towards state ownership of major transport utilities and operation of comprehensive nationwide system of land and sea transport complementing railway transport system. The government should ensure people’s participation in planning and management of the transport system, traffic governance, and in defining transport fares. This can only be done if there is a national industrialization program geared towards addressing domestic needs which will pave the way for the development of a safe, efficient, environmentally sustainable and mass-oriented public transport system.#
 Golub, Aaron, Ronaldo Balassiano, Ayres Araújo, and Eric Ferreira. “Regulation of the informal transport sector in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: welfare impacts and policy analysis.” Transportation 36, no. 5 (2009): 601-616.