Senator Grace Poe is optimistic that the hearing into the government’s jeepney modernization program would provide a solution to the grievances of the drivers and operators of transport groups, including the concerns of the commuters.
In her opening statement during the Senate Committee on Public Services hearing, Poe said that the inquiry is “not in aid of publicity, but in search of the solutions we all need.”
“By calling this hearing, we are trying to bring the issue from the streets to the negotiating table. Many of you have tried to thresh this out in several forums, and apparently everyone is sticking to his guns,” Poe said.
“The result is the policy-equivalent of a classic traffic gridlock, like cars entangled in an intersection because no one would budge. I may be wrong in my observation. But believe me, that is how the public perceives the situation to be,” the lady senator added.
Poe said jeepneys should be dispatched because of its “huge” ridership that can cause “massive public discomfort”.
She added that one in five Filipinos ride a jeep going to work, to school, or to the market every day, saying there are around 230,000 public jeepneys on the road–ten times the number of buses, five times the number of taxis, 40 times more than the minibuses, and bigger than Grab’s and Uber’s fleets combined.
“At a conservative 100 passengers per jeep a day, total ridership could reach 20 million, 40 times than the tirik-prone, tigil-susceptible MRT,” Poe said.
“The urban car-driving class may scoff at these ‘ancient, unsightly’ vehicles, which have long ceased to be kings of the road, but the fact is, and this [is] not fake news, jeepneys remain not only the main ride—but the only ride—in most parts of the country,” Poe added.
As it is said to be the only ride in most parts of the country, the lady senator said it is “imperative” for the government to fulfill its mandate in ensuring that these rides are safe convenient, and environment-friendly.
“But being indispensable does not make the jeep immune from improvements. The challenge is how to transition in a manner that is acceptable, affordable, and appropriate. It is not a question of if, but when and how,” Poe said.
“When the PUV Modernization program was launched, the program, according to the official press release, said it is “designed to make public utility vehicles safer, more convenient, more comfortable, and environment-friendly,” she added.
Poe also raised points for improvements such as concerns for air pollution that poses a danger to the health of commuters.
The senator also wants to know the role of Local Government Units (LGUs) in the implementation of the jeepney modernization program.
“It has been argued that the LGUs are in a better position to identify local public transport service requirements because of familiarity with their constituency and territory. Their local commuters will also be the first to be heavily affected with any jeepney replacement program. Therefore, it is only fair that the local governments have a role in this situation. Were the LGUs able to submit their route plans to the DOTr already?” she said.
However, Poe vows to ensure that the operators would receive aid from the government as if jeepney operators or drivers could shoulder around P1.5 to P1.8 million amount of jeepneys.
“Come to think of it, if government is subsidizing trains run by rich companies to the tune of billions, then why should it allow jeepney drivers and operators to foot the bill for new units almost all by themselves?” the senator said.
“So these are the divergent interests we would like to reconcile today. Tulad sa isang jeep, gusto nating makakita ng isang malinaw na ruta,” she added.