Politics

Jeepney manufacturer says consolidation should not be forced

2 Mins read
PHILSTAR

By Chloe Mari A. Hufana

JEEPNEY consolidation under the Philippines’ modernization plan should be optional to ease the burden on operators and drivers, according to a local jeepney manufacturer.

“Jeepney operators who see the benefits of forming a cooperative or corporation should be allowed to form one,” Francisco Motors Chairman Elmer B. Francisco said in a Zoom interview. Let them do it.”

“But for those who don’t see the benefits and can modernize without joining a cooperative or corporation, let them do so as well. Why force them?” he asked.

Mr. Francisco, whose family has been making jeepneys for more than three decades, noted that the government’s consolidation plan forces jeepney operators to work with each other when they are supposed to be competitors.

“If you try to bring them together, it will only create more chaos,” he told BusinessWorld in Filipino. “That’s what’s happening.”

Mr. Francisco said operators and drivers should be able to see the pros and cons of joining a cooperative and decide accordingly.

On Dec. 29, 2023, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) issued an order requiring jeepney operators to join or build cooperatives to make routes more efficient.

Jeepney drivers say joining a cooperative is expensive and forces them to give up ownership of their own vehicles. Joining a cooperative costs at least P20,000.

Jeepney driver Christian Erik V. Lirag said he had to join a cooperative so he doesn’t lose his livelihood.

“I don’t think it’s right because it feels forced,” he said in a Facebook Messenger chat. “There’s no choice, otherwise we won’t be able to operate. It’s better to make it optional because we can modernize without taking out bank loans or joining a cooperative or corporation.”

He said about 100 jeepney operators in his Balic-Balic-Quiapo route in Manila have joined the consolidation.

The modernization program seeks to eventually replace traditional jeepneys with modern ones that have at least a Euro-4-compliant engine to lessen pollution.

Francisco Motors plans to offer fully electric modern jeepneys that cost P1.99 million starting next year.

LTFRB Chairman Teofilo E. Guadiz III on May 15 said about 1,900 public utility vehicles had not joined the program. But transport group PISTON said more than 20,000 units in the capital region alone had not been covered by the consolidation.

Transportation Secretary Jaime J. Bautista said 80% of PUVs have consolidated.

PISTON has filed an amended lawsuit asking the Supreme Court to stop the state’s modernization program.

The LTFRB and the Transportation department have said unconsolidated jeepneys found plying their routes would be apprehended.

Erring drivers or operators would be slapped with a P10,000 fine and their vehicles impounded for a month. They also face a one-year suspension.

Transport group Manibela will hold another three-day transport strike starting June 10. It has cited a House of Representatives initiative for a one-year moratorium on the crackdown.

Last month, congressmen asked transport officials to suspend the crackdown and give unconsolidated jeepney operators a one-year grace period to modernize their units.