The ‘King of the road’ will finally take its new form. 2017 is the year where transport strike became a recurring event – this is due to the government’s movement to ‘modernize’ the Public Utility Jeepneys (PUJ). This so-called ‘modernization’ aims to phase-out old jeepney units that are over 15 years old and to replace it with a vehicle with ‘low-carbon and low-emission technology’. For commuters, this movement is like a dream come true; A new entirely form of public transportation vehicle that is considered ‘road worthy’, safe, and ergonomically designed. No wonder, we find less reaction to this issue online. For Jeepney drivers and operators, this phase-out plan is a nightmare. It threatens small scale operators, it threatens their livelihood. No wonder, they became pretty resilient in terms of this topic. Now, the government tries to sell the idea that there will be no ‘phase-out’, but in reality, there is. This modernization is. And this will cause around 75 percent of 204,000 jeepneys nationwide to finally come to full stop at the end of 2020. The government promised to provide help to the affected drivers and operators by provision of Php 80,000.00 subsidy and financial help through the 1-billion loaning scheme promised by Landbank of the Philippines (LBP). At first this looks promising, but not entirely. The cause of the transport strikes is not in the whole project of modernization but an attack against the ‘movement’ of the government toward this modernization. First issue being targeted by PUJ drivers and operators is the overrated seven million franchising fee and a minimum of 20 units of jeepneys per operator for 2018 and 40 units in 2019 is practically unaffordable. A subsidy of PhP80, 000 is not enough to help these operators cope up with these changes allowing only big companies to monopolize the business. Second is that the new jeepney model amounts to PhpP1.2 million to Php1.6 M. Yes, bank loan financing might help, for awhile, but not in the long run. Why? Operators will be given seven years to pay for the load for PhP800 a day plus the six percent annual interest rate. So let’s do a simple arithmetic, 800 pesos multiply by 365 days multiply by seven years is equal to PhP2,044,000. This is the amount that the operator must pay for a unit of jeepney plus the six percent annual interest. Given that each day an operator earns an amount of PhP800 to PhP1, 000 for the boundary which leaves them PhP200 or nothing. Drivers and operators are not the only people who will be affected in this movement, for us commuters this dream-like modernization also has its cost; Transport Sec. Arthur Tugade already informed the public that once this modernization takes place, fare hikes are likely but not abrupt. The public must be aware and prepared for these changes and expect more transport strike to happen until the end of this year. Even with these conflicting sides between the government and public transportation groups, the public can rest assured that the ‘king of the road’, transformed or not, will continue to run its route around the country.
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