DOTr warns jeepney drivers not to join transport strikes

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MANILA (October 8)– Despite protests by transport groups and drivers, the government will continue with its implementation of the Public Utility Vehicle (PUV) modernization program.  In fact, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) has repeatedly warned that it will “not hesitate to punish” jeepney drivers who will join transportation strikes.

“We will not stop at anything to provide a better commuting experience to the public,”  Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade said, as he emphasized that the agency will ensure that the rule of law will prevail.

The Senate conducts its public hearing on the jeepney modernization plan, which aims to replace public utility vehicles which are 15 years and older with units that are compliant with Euro-4 emission standards.  This is in line with the goal of the modernization program to promote safer and more environment-friendly transport options.

It is, however, being criticized for being anti-poor.  Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) chairman Martin Delgra III said a total of 180,000 jeepneys need to be modernized.

Under the modernization program, jeepney units should be replaced by those powered with Euro 4 engines or electrically-powered engines with solar panels for roofs.  It should also be equipped with safety features, such as a speed limiter, closed-circuit television camera (CCTV), GPS, and dashboard camera.

Tugade said that a major component of the program would be the financial loan scheme for jeepney drivers and operators, which will be as low as 5% equity, 6% interest rate, and a repayment period as long as 7 years. On top of this, the government will offer as high as P80,000 subsidy per unit to cover the equity payment.

Transport groups are far from convinced, as jeepney drivers and operators will have to pay as much as P27,000 monthly for the P1.5-million modernized unit, thus making it financially impossible for them, considering the seven-peso payment per passenger arrangement.

Department of Finance Undersecretary Karl Kendrick Chua said that a hulugan loaning system where drivers will pay every day for the loan money that they will use to purchase better jeepneys is being considered.  It is also mulling on the use of an “automated payment system” to facilitate payment for the unit. -NewsLine

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