Debate on 'jeepney phaseout' plan escalates in the Philippines

Xinhua | Updated: 2017-03-29 15:48
MANILA -- The Philippines has revived plans to remove jeepneys that are older than 10 years from Manila's gridlocked streets, stirring a fresh debate on the fate of the iconic vehicles that have been chugging along the streets since the 1950s.

The Philippine government and society have been talking about the "jeepney phaseout" for decades and the new "jeepney modernization" plan is an attempt to cut traffic emissions and ease the ever-worsening traffic congestion currently gripping the Philippine capital.

However, jeepney operators and drivers are up in arms over the planned measure, saying it is meant to kill off small transport operators in the country.

Last month, several transport groups took to the streets to protest the plan. Another group is mulling holding a similar demonstration in the coming days.

The jeepney, which traces its roots to the US Willys jeep used by the US army during World War ll, are elongated, flatbed passenger vehicles that have been plying the Philippine streets for more than five decades. It remains the main form of transport for millions of Filipinos across the archipelago.

Filipinos modified the Army Jeep, making it artsy by customizing the vehicle with Filipino touches such as chrome horses, banks of colored headlights, radio antennae, paintings of the Virgin Mary and unique artwork inspired by rustic scenes.

Indeed, the jeepney has become the symbol of Filipino creativity, ingenuity and innovativeness, making it one of the most recognizable icons of Filipino pop culture.

But critics say the jeepney has become a tarnished icon that has acquired a rather unsavory reputation, symbolizing the country's technological backwardness and inability to adapt to changing times.

The jeepney was often called the "King of the Road" because of their sheer numbers on the city streets or rural roads, but Jeepney drivers are notorious for never following traffic regulations.

The smoke-belching jeepneys that ply Manila's traffic-choked streets around the clock are blamed for clogging the roads, compounding the dismal traffic problem and dirtying the city's air.

Jeepneys are also being blamed for increasing road accidents, due in part to their wild drivers' notoriously reckless ways on Manila's streets. At night, jeepney drivers often don't use their headlights, making it dangerous for other motorists.

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