Transport Strike – Feb 27, 2017 – Jeepney phase out & plight of drivers

It’s true, transport groups will hold another transport strike on Monday, February 27. 2017 beginning at 6AM, it is being organized by transport groups PISTON, STOP and GO Coalition, and No To Jeepney Phase Out Coalition (NJPOC). According to the groups, their fellow drivers and operators will also hold a transport strike in the following cities nationwide including Baguio City, Cebu City, Iloilo City, Tacloban City, and Cagayan de Oro City.

Phase out of 15-year old PUJs and PUBs

The transport strike is in protest of the planned phase out of Public Utility Jeeps and Buses that are over 15 years of age. This was laid down in DOTC Order 2002-03 which is further implemented by LTFRB Resolution No 2013-01 which basically mandates that PUB and PUJ units that are 15 years of age and over would no longer be given a Certificate of Public Convenience essentially removing these vehicles off our roads.

LTFRB spokesperson Aileen Lizada said the phase out of old jeepneys is part of the government program to “modernize” public transport. In place of the old jeeps that run on diesel, the government is pushing the promotion of e-jeeps which run on eletricity.

To help drivers and operators make the switch to E-jeepneys, Lizada said the government would buy the old jeeps and offer loans to help with the purchase. Which seems fair and reasonable, though I haven’t come across any news report or publicly available information about the details of this loan and ‘buy back’ scheme of the government.

Loss of livelihood

Transport groups fear that since most of the jeeps they use are over 15 years old, despite being in good road-worthy conditions, a lot from their sector would lose their means of livelihood. The e-jeep being offered by the government are too expensive for small operators to buy. They also have doubts about its reliability and mileage. Even with loans from the government, the E-jeeps would only contribute to an increase in fares as the costs would be passed on to the commuters. And with the additional requirements for operators to have at least 10 units to avail of the loans, this will only force the small operators out of business and deprive them of a means of living.

Public safety vs means of livelihood

The government claims that the phase out of old jeeps is to ensure the commuters have a safe public transport. Statistics on road safety, in particular, accidents involving PUJs are not readily available online. The only stats I’ve managed to find is from a post by Top Gear from data gathered by DOTC in 2012! The bit of statistics relevant to road safety are as follows:

79% – Road crash fatalities caused by driver error

11% – Road crash fatalities caused by defective vehicles

With no data on how many of these road accidents due to defective vehicles involved public utility jeepneys, we really can’t say if 15-year-old jeepneys are really a safety risk for the riding public. Given that there are far more road accidents caused by driver error. one could say it doesn’t matter if your vehicle is old or brand new.

Mr. George San Mateo, national president of the militant Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide (Piston) in an article by Fred Dabu in UP Forum, explains why jeep drivers are among the poor and vulnerable of our society:

“Ang mga jeepney driver ay ‘mala-manggagawa’ kumpara sa mga bus driver na ‘manggagawa’ kasi may employee-employer relationship sa mga bus company habang walang employee-employer relationship sa mga jeepney driver. Karamihan dating magsasaka, iniwan ang lupa at pumunta sa sentrong lunsod.”

He went on to add:

San Mateo estimated the daily gross income of jeepney drivers on a 24-hour-run at Php500-600 or only equivalent to a Php250 per day take-home income for a 12-hour-shift, an amount way below the minimum wage standard for workers. He said there was no standard “boundary” or amount given to the jeepney operator. “Walang fixed amount, depende sa usapan, depende sa seating capacity, route, sitwasyon ng trapik.” For instance, short routes would require payments for operators as low as Php600 while long routes would require Php1,000 or more as boundary for a 24-hour-run.

The struggle for a more just means of ‘modernizing’ the public transport sector against the rights of the jeep drivers and operators to make a living has reached the Court of Appeals where in August of 2016 it sided with the government ruling that in the name public safety, the government’s right to police and regulate public transport must prevail over the rights of the few to earn a living.

Hence the transport strike, the 2nd this February, that will take place tomorrow.

Sympathize with the jeep drivers and operators

Tomorrow will be another difficult day for many of us commuters. While some schools have already announced class cancellations for tomorrow to spare their students and faculty of the inconvenience the transport strike would cause, it does nothing to address the issue. Sure some of us would be able to take a taxi, an Uber, a GrabCar to get to work tomorrow all while being annoyed and angry at the striking jeepney drivers, it also does nothing to solve the issue.

While we will be inconvenienced tomorrow by the transport strike, take a minute to think that the striking drivers would sacrifice a day of earnings to send their message across and to call out attention to their cause: if the government will have its way, they would lose their livelihood. There will be lesser jeepneys to go around, commuting will be a lot more difficult and costly even after the transport strike.

This issue is not just about old jeepneys, it’s about the terrible mess that our public transport has become. There’s a better way of modernizing our public transport. It doesn’t have to be just about the safety of the commuting public over the livelihood of drivers and operators.