Debate on 'jeepney phaseout' plan escalates in the Philippines

Xinhua | Updated: 2017-03-29 15:48

Ousted President Joseph Estrada, now the mayor of Manila City, made the jeepney his personal motif to symbolize his being "pro-poor" when he campaigned for president in 1998. He even named his showcase jeepney "Jeep ni Erap." Erap is Estrada's popular nickname.

The government wants to have the number of jeepneys pared down, if not phased out totally.

But the ubiquitous jeepneys have survived despite the rising popularity of the Japanese-made air conditioned Toyota Tamaraw FX, the Mitsubishi "mega taxis' on the streets and the elevated trains that run throughout the metropolis.

An estimated 220,000 to 230,000 jeepneys are on the streets of Metro Manila and other provinces on any given day, according to government statistics.

George San Mateo, the national president of a militant transport group, said the planned "jeepney phaseout" would affect at least 162,500 jeepney drivers and 45,000 operators.

Rather than making a business out of modernization, he said the government should extend support to drivers and operators to allow them to rehabilitate their aging units.

The Philippine Star, one of the leading English newspapers in the Philippines, ran an editorial recently saying the campaign of the Duterte administration to phase out jeepneys "will end up as another exercise in futility unless concerns are sufficiently addressed."

"One is livelihood for the drivers who will be displaced as well as the operators, most of whom are small-scale transport owners," the editorial said.

It said that so far the government has not come up with an alternative to the jeepney. "More buses must be fielded and the light rail and commuter train services substantially upgraded if the administration wants the jeepney phaseout to enjoy mass support," it said.

"Unless these concerns are addressed, the latest effort to phase out jeepneys will go the way of previous efforts -- straight to the wastebasket," the editorial said.

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