Malacañang assures drivers modernization program is beneficial and not anti-poor

Image via Department of Transportation - Philippines' Facebook page

Malacañang released a statement on Thursday regarding concern against the jeepney modernization program; saying it would not drive jeepney drivers and operators out of business, but instead address environmental concerns and strengthen the industry.

“We assure Filipino jeepney drivers that this initiative of the government to improve our public transport sector will not put them out of business,” declared presidential spokesperson Harry Roque.

The assurance was made to address the concerns of the industry players complaining about displacing 650,000 drivers while replacing 270,000 smoke-belching jeepneys.

“It was not designed to phase out jeepneys. In fact, the program aims to strengthen and guarantee the profitability of the jeepney business,” Roque said.

With the government’s plan of  rolling out the modernization on January 1, criticisms spurred, causing the President to rant against jeepney drivers and operators; threatening to arrest industry leaders who would hold another strike against it.

“If you can’t modernize that, leave. You’re poor? Son of a bitch, go ahead, suffer in poverty and hunger, I don’t care,” President Duterte said after a jeepney strike in October, as disclosed in an Inquirer story.

Meanwhile, Roque said Department of Transportation is already addressing the financial concern of the jeepney drivers and operators. He said that there is a government subsidy amounting to P80,000 per unit.

The cost of electric or hybrid vehicles, compliant with Euro-4 emission standards, is too prohibitive at P1.5 million to P1.8 million each.

Through the Development Bank of the Philippines and Landbank of the Philippines, the Department of Finance offers loans with a 5-percent equity, 6-percent interest rate, and a repayment period of seven years.

Moreover, he pointed out that the maintenance costs of the new e-jeeps would be very low or zero, which could translate to savings for the drivers and operators.