JeepneysOctober 19, 2017
DEMAND AND SUPPLY by Boo Chanco
The Philippine Star | October 18, 2017
I have mixed feelings about what to do with the jeepneys. On the one hand, I can understand why government wants to do something, anything, to “modernize” the jeepney. On the other hand, it is a transport system deeply rooted in our culture and requires no subsidy from the government.
Of course the jeepneys have seen better days. In the heydays of Sarao, the jeepneys were more colorful and more reflective of our artistic inclinations. Today, the jeepney looks dirty, old and tired… almost suggesting it’s time to go.
The looks aside, the jeepney is also a rather inefficient form of mass transport, if one can even call it such. At best, the jeepney should be fielded in feeder routes but not on long routes like Commonwealth to Quiapo or Antipolo to Crossing or Baclaran to Monumento.
The jeepney uses old diesel engines discarded by Japan and other countries for causing serious air pollution problems. Our air quality in Metro Manila is one of the worst in our part of the world, if not worldwide.
A lot of the particles we breathe come from exhaust of old diesel engines. LTO had been unable to enforce the law, which explains all the black soot from the tailpipes of jeepneys.
We should be able to all agree that our health is as valuable as the health of the Japanese or the Koreans. So, we need to get rid of those old diesel engines. A mass transit system is supposed to do that. But DOTr chose to focus on a “modernization” plan to replace the jeepneys.
The big protest from jeepney operators and drivers is no doubt a result of DOTr’s failure to input cultural factors in their so called “modernization” plan. Worse, this plan seems pretty much just skin deep.
There are two things generations of grassroots Pinoys have turned to in their desperate attempt to eke out a living: putting up a sari sari store and driving a jeepney or a tricycle. Even OFWs returning from work abroad save enough money to buy a jeepney or a van for a UV Express. It is common to see “Katas ng Saudi” proudly painted on the jeepney’s side.
In effect, DOTr is destroying a source of livelihood jeepney operators and drivers have known for generations. For the jeepney folks, this is a fight for survival.
There was no attempt to pre-sell the program, a must given the drastic change called for. Folks were presented sample units of the “modern” jeepney priced at an outrageous P1.2 million-P1.6 million each. At that price, many operators would rather buy a Toyota Grandia van and take the UV express route.
DOTr did not even try to win over other segments of the public eager to have cleaner means of transport with all the modern amenities. There could have been support for “modernization” if it was properly presented.
The riding public is ready for change. They are obviously getting tired of the old jeepney. They are still riding these jeepneys only if there is no alternative. Where there are alternatives, like the UV Express vans, they go for the cleaner, newer and airconditioned vans.
Personally, I am not even sure I like the “modern” jeepney as presented through prototypes. For the price of as much as P1.6 million, I would expect better design. It still looks primitively boxy. It looks truly third world. I am sure we have better design artists who could have produced something with the flair of a Cobonpue.
But there are more basic things DOTr forgot. The jeepney modernization should have been presented in the context of an overall plan. The plan should have reassured current jeepney operators and drivers that they will be assigned feeder routes for the next five years or so.
My former colleague at the old Ministry of Energy, Marcial Ocampo, pointed out many other important things DOTr missed out. For one, we need to “modernize our Metro Manila bus system, not the jeepney system.”
Mr. Ocampo rightly pointed out that “modernizing the jeepney system with the same set of drivers we have today won’t solve our Metro Manila traffic problem.” There will still be a horde of them blocking intersections, loading passengers at both sides of the intersection and still causing gridlocks. They will still operate illegal terminals and impede traffic flow at the end of road networks.
“The correct solution is modernizing our bus system into two competing bus consortia – radial bus consortium and circular bus consortium. The high volume profitable routes will subsidize the low volume non-profitable missionary routes usually dominated by the phased-out jeeps and operated in a predictable bus schedule.
“Why modernize the jeeps that lack passenger capacity and passenger volume – they even have to operate an illegal terminal and use barkers to attract the small volume of passengers – and then force them to purchase a costly vehicle? It will never work…
“We need to phase out the low-capacity jeepneys and AUVs and replace them with an efficient centrally dispatched bus consortia of radial and circular route system. The new or modern system will use beep cards for electronic payment and computerized passenger volume monitoring with monthly salaried drivers. Otherwise, WE CAN NEVER SOLVE THE METRO MANILA TRAFFIC PROBLEM.”
NAIA GM Ed Monreal responded to our column about the delay in the disembarkation of our flight from Hanoi last week supposedly to wait for our gate which was being used by another aircraft. But I pointed out, other gates were open.
Monreal said he called for a staff meeting to discuss my complaint and “based on the discussions, there was an apparent indiscretion in responding to what the situation required. And for this, I offer no excuses.”
Monreal reassured that they will henceforth “exercise flexibility in gate assignments when the need arises…”
But Monreal didn’t say anything about the inadequate airconditioning in the Terminal 3’s pre-departure area.
I just got this comment from a friend on Viber: “Boo, my daughter complained about that lousy aircon at T3 six months ago, three months ago and then recently. Nothing had changed. You’re so right about Tugade.”
I didn’t realize T3’s aircon had been off that long. I checked and was told they are waiting for spare parts.
I suppose their problem is the government procurement process. It also took time during P-Noy’s watch for them to procure needed spare parts for the aircon system as well as the generators. That’s why they suffered a serious power blackout as well as oven hot terminal building.
The only viable solution is to privatize NAIA management and operations. There was that NEDA approved plan that P-Noy left behind which Transport Secretary Art Tugade threw out the window even if he has no alternative.
Maybe as a compromise, they can privatize O and M of the terminal buildings even if total airport control is still in government hands. Security can still be under the DOTr’s Office for Transport Security, the same unit responsible for Tanim Bala in the past.
Monreal must insist on a solution specially now that he is experiencing first hand that the government processes are totally unsuitable to the running of a modern airport.