Public transport groups oppose jeepney phaseout despite LTFRB denial of a plan

May 22, 2017 - 4:36 PM
Transport sector leaders and members mount a protest in this file photo. BERNARD TESTA, INTERAKSYON

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO – Hundreds of jeepney operators and transport group association leaders from different provinces in Central Luzon stormed the regional office of the Land Transportation Franchising Regulatory Board on Monday to protest the planned phaseout of jeepneys on the road.

The Central Luzon mobilization was part of a protest caravan called primarily by the PISTON group in Metro Manila and key cities with big fleets of public jeepneys.

PISTON leader George San Mateo earlier explained in radio interviews they were not calling a transport strike, but a “protest caravan” meant to take the LTFRB to task for allegedly deceiving them into believing there is no plan to phase out jeepneys, only for them to learn that the agency has put a cap on the number of years a jeepney will be allowed to be registered. The LTFRB has denied there is any circular tantamount to a phaseout.

Elaborating on what’s giving rise to the protests, one of the leaders of the Pampanga mobilization, Emmanuel Cruz, said they have a beef with the Omnibus Franchise Guidelines, a government move that will eventually take out jeepneys on the roads.

Cruz is spokesperson for the transport sector of the Workers Movement for Change.

Hindi inaamin ng LTFRB na ipi-phase-out ang mga jeep pero batay sa ginanap na konsultasyon ng LTFRB sa City of San Fernando, Pampanga noong ika-5 ng Abril, doon mo maiiintindihan na phase-out talaga ang pupuntahan ng mga jeep namin [The LTFRB is not admitting the plan to phase out jeepneys but in the consultation with LTFRB in San Fernando last April 5, one clearly understands that our jeepneys are really going to be phased out],” Cruz said in a statement distributed to reporters.

Cruz and his group converged at the LTFRB regional office at the Government Center, Barangay Maimpis in San Fernando City, and submitted their petition strongly opposing the Omnibus Franchising Guidelines (OFG). The LTFRB has yet to comment on this.

The OFG purportedly aims to improve land public transport in the Philippines in accordance with the LGUs’ public-transport plans, where routes are based on passenger demands and the existing road network. These guidelines also ensure that approved franchises have safe, comfortable and environmentally sustainable vehicles.

Who can afford brand-new units?

Though LTFRB assured jeepney operators that no phaseout of public transportation will take place as existing franchises will remain, Cruz said jeepney drivers and operators cannot afford to acquire a brand-new unit of public transportation which costs P1.4 million to P1.6 million.

Under the proposed guidelines, commuters will have easier access to public transport due to an expanded network that connects different routes and establishments. Riding public transport will also be more reliable. Travel times may also decrease due to routes becoming optimized. Vehicles will be more comfortable, spacious, clean and safe.

Drivers will have the security of monthly salary and benefits. Drivers will have reduced working hours, making it safer for both the driver and the passengers. Due to modernized vehicle specifications, drivers will also be less exposed to air pollution and other health hazards.

Improvements in public transport will increase ridership, while reducing traffic congestion. As a result, operators will be able to accept more passengers, without their vehicles getting stuck in traffic. Furthermore, organizing operators will reduce costs by sharing services, such as cleaning, repairs, maintenance and fleet management. It will also be easier for operators to obtain fuel and spare parts at discounted rates.