Old jeepneys – Public Utility Jeepneys or PUJs – can stay on the nation’s roads if they are roadworthy, Secretary Arthur Tugade of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) said last Monday, in the wake of continuing resistance to the government’s modernization program.
Opposition to the modernization efforts of the DOTr came last week from another sector – small trucking groups who called for a five-day “truck holiday” protesting a ban on 15-year-old trucks, saying roadworthiness, rather than a vehicle’s age, should be the criterion for any ban.
The “truck holiday” did not have much effect on pier cargo movement, as the big trucking companies did not join it.
But the point of roadworthiness was acknowledged by Secretary Tugade at a press conference he held on the ongoing program to phase out old PUJs from the nation’s streets. Of the total 600,000 jeepneys nationwide, he said, only about 220,000 really unroadworthy ones will be affected during the three-year period of modernization.
It is indeed time to retire many of the nation’s jeepneys, especially those with old polluting engines and deficient in such body requirements as adequate turning and breaking lights.
The DOTr will thus proceed with the modernization plan highlighted by the use of Euro-4 compliant engines or electric motors meeting the requirements of the Clean Air Act of 1999, with side doors instead of rear doors as well as emergency exits for passenger safety, speed limiters, and automatic fare collection systems.
To help operators and drivers make the transition to new jeepneys, the government has drawn up a financing system with low interest rates and low down payments, payability in seven years, and P80,000 in government subsidy.
Secretary Tugade said a study has indicated that jeepney drivers, under the new system of modernized jeepneys, will still be able to earn enough for their families. Thus, on so many aspects of the modernization plan, the government has devoted considerable study and attention.
The jeepneys are indeed a colorful part of the history of transportation in the Philippines, dating back to Liberation days when resourceful Filipinos transformed surplus American military jeeps into the country’s principal means of transportation, replacing the horse-driven calesa as the king of the road.
Jeepneys will continue to serve so many of our people, but they will have to meet the new standards of traffic and environmental safety, in line with laws enacted over the years, and find their new place in the nation’s overall transportation system as planned so meticulously by the Department of Transportation.