We in AGHAM – Advocates of Science and Technology for the People express our solidarity with Piston and other drivers and operators who oppose the jeepney phaseout hidden beneath the veil of the government’s jeepney ‘modernization’ program. We support the call for the genuine modernization of the country’s mass transport system that is integrated with a comprehensive program for national industrialization.

The government’s Public Utility Vehicle (PUV) Modernization Program is a poor attempt at solving the problematic public transportation system in the country. The Department of Transportation’s (DOTr) Department Order No. 2017-011 (Omnibus Guidelines on the Planning and Identification of Public Road Transportation Services and Franchise Issuance), a major component of the said program, sets modernization standards for PUVs that are unreasonable in the present context and will ultimately lead to the corporate take-over of the PUV system, especially the jeepney industry.

The historical characteristic of jeepneys as a recycled form of transportation, from refurbishing of leftover vehicles from World War II to the usage of surplus engines and diesel from Japan, is a manifestation of the country’s lack of an automotive industry that could have developed it. After decades of blatant neglect to develop the jeepney’s technology, the government is now pursuing a rushed and illusory modernization program.

The said order’s stringent requirement for public utility jeepney (PUJs) and other PUVs to have latest engines that are compliant with Euro 4 emission standards, GPS, automated fare collection system through Ayala-owned Beep™, and other capabilities are incompatible with the realities surrounding the current state of the country’s automotive industry which is heavily reliant on imports and bogus technology transfer.

Without an automotive industry that can sustain the creation of engines and other quality parts, the DOTr’s PUV modernization program will further our dependence on foreign technologies and machineries. The government is trying to divert the issue to the jeepneys, pitting small-time jeepney drivers against modernization.

The groups who protested on Monday are not against modernization, in fact if there is a clamor for a cheaper and more efficient jeepney industry, it would come from the small jeepney drivers, operators, and the public who makes the most use of this form of transport. The truth is that the issue is not about whether or not modernization is needed, but the corporate take-over of the public transport industry through the current modernization program.

Public transportation is a social service that the government should provide to its citizens at a free or affordable cost. The corporatization of mass transport will only lead to higher costs to the consumers despite lack of assurances of better service. We have seen this in the country’s train system: the LRT1, LRT2, MRT3, and now the planned MRT7 have been handed to corporate entities, removing the government’s control over a vital public service and leaving the public subject to the whims of the big corporations who control them.

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 automative industry, boosting employment as well as providing an effective and strategic mass transport system. 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, and mass-oriented public transport system.#


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