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DECODE: What’s behind the week-long transport strike? 

by Cecilia Villarosa

THE jeepney is one of the symbols of Philippine culture. It represents Filipinos’ resilience and innovation. 

But the so-called “King of the Road” is on the brink of extinction as the government is bent on implementing its modernization program for public transportation. 

However, various transport groups are resisting the planned phaseout of traditional jeepneys as this would mean the loss of their livelihood. 

They are planning a week-long transport strike beginning March 6 to protest this. 

The jeepney’s brief history 

The public utility jeepney is one of the major and one of the cheapest modes of public transportation in the country.

It originated from Willy Jeeps left behind by the Americans after World War II. 

To accommodate more passengers, Filipinos refurbished the vehicle, extended its length and replaced the seats with two long benches. 

Eventually, the jeepney became popular as it addressed the need for public transportation following the damage and devastation caused by the second world war. 

However, in the midst of modernization, this iconic national symbol is set to be phased out and to be replaced with modern public utility vehicles.

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The PUV modernization program 

In 2017, the Department of Transportation issued an order that aims to replace old and dilapidated PUVs with “safe, efficient and environment-friendly” vehicles. 

The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board said the implementation of the modernization program, which was initially set in 2020, has been delayed owing to the impact of COVID-19 pandemic, and a new deadline has been set. 

Under its Memorandum Circular No. 2023-013, individual operators of traditional jeepneys are allowed to operate until June 30, 2023.

“[T]he implementation has been stretched out, extending its deadline to help PUV operators cope with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which adversely affected the operations of public transportation services,” the LTFRB said in its memorandum dated February 20, 2023.

The LTFRB added that there are already a “considerable number of operators” nationwide who are willing to comply with fleet modernization. 

Transport Strike

However, several transport groups are protesting the impending jeepney phaseout. They are set to conduct a week-long transport strike next week. 

They are calling for a “reasonable transition period” because for them, it’s a fight for their livelihood. 

In a statement, the transport group Piston or Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operators Nationwide urged the government to suspend the traditional jeepney phaseout while conducting a “thorough review of the program.” 

Under the program, old jeepneys will be replaced with mini buses equipped with CCTV Cameras, GPS, automated fare collection system, front-facing seats and new exits on the right-hand side. 

However, Piston said that it’s difficult for PUV operators to acquire a modern minibus which costs more than P2 million per unit. 

Meanwhile, Manibela National President Mar Valbuena said thejeepney phaseout would also be detrimental to the commuters. 

Magtigil pasada na kami habang maaga. Paramdam na namin na pag wala kami, wala ring masasakyan yung taumbayan.”

Mar Valbuena

The Senate has already adopted a resolution urging the LTFRB to defer the phaseout of traditional jeepney. 

“The LTFRB should not coerce PUV operators into complying with their guidelines without addressing the sector’s concerns, particularly on the high capital costs of acquiring modern jeepneys,” read the resolution which was unanimously adopted by all senators 

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