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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

June 30 jeepney phaseout ‘cruel, inhumane’

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DESCRIBING it as “cruel and inhumane,” an economist-lawmaker on Sunday strongly opposed the June 30 jeepney phaseout without enough subsidies and assistance from the government.

House Committee on Ways and Means Chairman Joey Sarte Salceda urged the Marcos administration to expedite the cooperativization and provide subsidies for the public utility jeepney (PUJ) modernization program of the government, as some 50,000 traditional PUJs have not yet been consolidated and may lose their franchises due to Memorandum Circular No. 2023-13 issued by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB). Those who will cooperativize can have their provisional licenses renewed until the end of 2023.

“Totally, I oppose it without government providing concrete assistance to help PUJs cooperativize or to provide ample seed funding for their cooperatives,” Salceda said in a statement.

According to Salceda, even the end-2023 extension is not enough.

Salceda said he will file a resolution directing the House Committee on Transportation to call for the suspension of the memorandum circular.

“I think the policy is especially cruel and inhumane when there are no longer any PUJ subsidies in the budget. Cruel and inhumane when you consider that jeepney drivers were among the hardest-hit sectors over the past three years,” he said.

Work with LGUs

Salceda also called on the Department of Transportation and the LTFRB to work with local governments to create a scheme where local government units establish and operate modernized jeepneys.

“PUJs are a public utility, both by nature and by law, in the Public Service Act amendments. So, they are imbued with a greater sense of purpose than purely commercial enterprises. Public transport, arguably, should be run by the state. Ideally, at least,” he added.

“In the absence of that, we should work with local governments, provincial governments in particular, and among NCR mayors, so that LGU-led cooperatives or corporations can run the routes instead, with the displaced PUV drivers as regular employees. That will help rationalize routes better, create more dependable livelihoods for transport workers, and lead to better traffic conditions,” Salceda said.

PUJs, Salceda estimated, convey between 800,000 and 1.2 million passengers in NCR alone, “while being the main mode of transportation between towns in the provinces.”

“In the provinces, we also do not have the same degree of problems with PUJs as NCR does. Besides, congestion and pollution are not singularly the fault of old jeepneys. So, this policy totally hurts us in the provinces more than it hurts you in the cities,” he said.

Salceda instead said the House tax panel will try to revive the proposed updating of the Road Users’ Tax, which have not been changed since 2004, “to more evenly distribute the burdens of congestion and pollution to everyone who uses vehicles, instead of charging a P21,000 per month tax on PUJs for 7 years.”

Salceda authored House Bill No. 376, which also includes earmarking 45 percent of incremental revenues from the higher rates towards the PUJ modernization program.

“We should take the PUJ modernization push as an opportunity to reshape the public transport sector. But let’s not pauperize an already struggling sector to get that done. And frankly, keeping the PUJ sector largely private will eventually create the same problems that we are trying to address right now —bad road behavior, irrational routes, and depressed incomes for PUJ workers,” he said.

Image credits: Ed Davad

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