Without Jeepney Modernization, We All Lose

Without Jeepney Modernization, We All Lose

It starts with modernizing our jeeps

Today marks the start of the two-day transport strike headed by Pinagkaisahang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (Piston) to protest the planned jeepney phaseout of the government. It’s another transport strike aimed at sending a message to the government by making our daily commute to work as difficult as possible, all to let the DOTr know that they’re not willing to modernize the most common transportation system in the Philippines.

That’s a truly dumb and stupid idea on many levels, but let’s concentrate on why they (PISTON) are doing this. They’re opposing the modernization of jeepneys, saying that the new vehicles will become a burden to both drivers and operators, as they will be too expensive to operate and use. The additional fares and planned automatic fare collection sytem through beep would also be a burden to the working class who depend on these vehicles every day.

PISTON’s pig-headed refusal to embrace change and modernization is one of the biggest stumbling blocks we currently have in achieving an efficient, modern transportation system. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the jeepneys that are plying the streets now are deathtraps. I’m not saying that as a hyperbole, they are literal traps of death if you’re ever involved in an accident while riding in one. No seat belts, no crumple zones, no kind of safety device to speak of.

They’re also one of the biggest pollutants on the roads today. With around 70% of them being more than 15 years old, many of them already need to be taken out of circulation. Anyone who has ever driven in Manila knows how much pollution a regular jeep puts out on their route, which adds to the already smog-ridden skyline that we all have to breathe.

Jeepney modernization solves all of that. The new jeeps that the DOTr are proposing are safe, and while the final specs of the modernized jeeps are yet to be finalized (either Euro 4 compliant diesel engines, electric powered engines or a mix of both) I’m sure as hell they’ll be 100% better at not poisoning the very air we breath as they drive down the road.

The modern jeepney, image via Top Gear PH

And I get the reasoning of PISTON that these new vehicles would put an undue burden on both the riding public and the driver/operator when it comes to the financial cost due to the overall price of these new jeepneys as well as the automated fare collection system via Beep. But when you consider that the government will be giving an extended 7 year financing through the Development Bank of the Philippines and Land Bank of the Philippines and a low 5% equity, 6% interest rate plus a repayment period as long as 7 years, plus almost zero maintenance for the first 3 years then the financial cost isn’t as big as people imagine.

We’ve been down this road before. Attempts to modernize our transport system has long been met with resistance from people who are content to keep to the old way of doing things, without considering the welfare of the riding public. I’ve been lucky enough that I’ve been to other countries that have excellent public transportation systems, and I long for the day that our country gets a mass transit system as efficient as the one in Hong Kong and Taiwan. But to achieve that we need to understand that we have to let go of what’s holding us back, and embrace change, endure a little bit of sacrifice so we get something better in return.

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