Feature: Philippines to start ban on aged, smoke-belching jeepneys amid opposition

Source: Xinhua| 2017-12-29 17:16:36|Editor: Mengjie
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MANILA, Dec. 29 (Xinhua) -- Starting from Jan. 1 next year, the Philippine government will ban jeepneys aged 15 years or older from plying the streets despite the opposition of some transport groups.

The move is part of the government's Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP), a three-year plan aimed at making jeepneys safer and more environmentally-friendly.

Contrary to the claims of some transport groups, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement Thursday that the PUVMP "is not anti-poor."

"We assure Filipino jeepney drivers that this initiative of the government to improve our public transport sector will not put them out of business. It was not designed to phase out jeepneys. In fact, the program aims to strengthen and guarantee the profitability of the jeepney business," Roque said.

Roque assured the drivers that the government will address their concerns.

Moreover, Roque said that Department of Finance is offering a 5 percent equity, 6 percent interest rate and a seven years repayment financing package on top of the 80,000 pesos (1,603 U.S. dollars) subsidy per unit to cover the equity payment.

In addition, Roque said: "there is zero or low maintenance cost of units in the first three years, which translates to savings."

But the jeepney operators and drivers are wary of the plan, saying the planned measure is meant to kill small transport operators in the country. Since the government outlined the plan early this year, some transport groups have taken to the streets to protest the plan.

Indeed, the plan to rid the streets of dilapidated jeepneys has stirred a fresh debate on the fate of the iconic jeepneys that have been chugging along the streets since the 1950s.

However, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is unfazed by the threats of left-leaning groups to launch more protest actions once the plan is implemented.

Duterte said jeepneys are poisoning the air and have become a threat to the health of the people. The plan will cut traffic emissions and ease the worsening traffic congestion gripping the big cities, including Metro Manila, he said.

Duterte said the jeepney ban will push ahead as planned, adding the government is determined to phase out the jeepneys.

He has already repeatedly warned those who defy his order that they will be arrested.

In addition, he said jeepneys, which are reconstructed using second-hand engines, are "poisoning the people."

"You do not want to fix your engines, which were used already but had been overhauled. Those are really machines that should be phased out. You see, they are smoke belchers and our poor fellow Filipinos who do not have cars, air-con, suck everything," Duterte said.

"This is what I will do, either you modernize next year, sell your jeeps to the junkyards. Next year, I don't want to see any single PUJ (on the streets) because if I see one, you will be arrested. Do not resist anymore because I am telling the truth, this is the law," Duterte said, adding that no one will be spared or "get away."

The Department of Transportation said that the phaseout will begin in January next year, the start of a three-year transition period. They hope to remove all old jeepneys from the streets by the end of 2021.

The government plans to replace jeepneys 15 years and older with electric-powered or Euro 4 compliant vehicles. Euro 4 is a set emission standard on particulate matter, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons.

The government also wants e-jeepneys installed with closed-circuit television cameras, a GPS navigation system, automatic fare collection system, dash cameras and Wifi.

The proposed modernization program will displace some 270,000 jeepneys nationwide and negatively impact 650,000 drivers, according to the transport groups.

Aileen Lizada, board member and spokesperson of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB), has earlier said that the plan aims to modernize the decades-old transport system by introducing "reliable and environmentally-friendly jeepneys to commuters."

LTFRB is a government agency that regulates public land transport in the Philippines.

There had been similar attempts in the past to jazz up the image of the diesel-fueled jeepney to make them eco-friendlier and adapted to the changing times. But so far, the plan has not really taken off.

The jeepney is often called the "King of the Road" because of their sheer numbers on the city streets and rural roads. Jeepney drivers are notorious for never following traffic regulations.

The smoke-belching jeepneys that ply Manila's traffic-choked streets around the clock have been blamed for clogging the streets, compounding the dismal traffic problem and dirtying the city's air.

The jeepneys also get the blame for the increasing road accidents, thanks in part to their wild driver's notoriously reckless ways on Manila's streets.

The jeepney, which traces its roots to the U.S. jeep used by the U.S. Army during World War II, are elongated, flatbed passenger vehicles that have been plying the Philippine streets for more than five decades.

It remains the main transport for millions of Filipinos across the archipelago.