Freedom of Movement
Campaigning for freedom of movement by supporting our transport workers

Project mani(be)la 1

When it was announced by the Department of Transportation (DOTr) in 2017 that traditional jeepneys would have to eventually be replaced by safer, more efficient, and modern low-carbon vehicles, there were many who expressed resistance to the plan. So even if the initiative has the potential to improve the Philippines’ transportation infrastructure and reduce air pollution, the PUV Modernization Program (PUVMP) became quite unpopular, especially with the jeepney drivers and operators.

Another important consideration is the fact that most of the public utility vehicles in the country are owned and informally operated by individual operators and drivers. They have to catch up with the growing mobility needs of the population as urban riders continue to grow and many new cities emerge all throughout the Philippines.

As far as planning for the transition goes, there are so many issues related to the development and approval of the plans. For example, the data needed to formulate and validate the plan (LPTRP - Local Public Transport Route Plan) is scarce because it requires great effort and resources to collect this kind of data.

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Addressing the obstacles

Admittedly, the PUVMP comes with some shortcomings, which must be effectively addressed if the government wants to implement it soon. One of these gaps is the lack of financial assistance for jeepney operators who cannot afford to buy new vehicles. 

Small-scale operators surely cannot compete with bigger ones, leading to the former’s eventual displacement. The livelihood of the jeepney drivers themselves is going to be directly affected, putting the welfare of their dependents and families at risk. 

To give a concrete example, a jeepney operator, on average, earns a daily gross income of P2,500 to P3,000. He still needs to deduct his expenses from this—gasoline, vehicle maintenance, and payment for the driver (usually, P500).

Modern jeepneys cost around P2.8 million, an amount that the jeepney drivers and operators will have to shoulder. Even if they are assembled locally, these modern jeepneys are expensive because they are made using parts and equipment imported from huge corporations abroad.

The cost of buying a traditional jeepney ranges from P200,000 to P400,000 only. That’s a huge discrepancy and it is easy to see, considering their income, that drivers and operators will have a hard time raising the money needed to secure modern units. Even if subsidies are provided by the government, the drivers and operators are still concerned about the huge debts they will have to incur just to be able to comply with the new policy.

To add to this, there is apparently inadequate communication between the implementing agencies and the jeepney drivers and operators regarding the details of the plan. There is also a lack of a strategic training plan to help facilitate their smooth transition to the new system which makes use of the new vehicles.

Training needs

To ensure that the transport workers and the cooperatives are able to adjust and, therefore, able to continue earning a decent living, there needs to be specific training sessions or workshops to provide them a just transition from the old to the new system. The following are just a few of the necessary topics to be covered:

• How to operate and maintain the new vehicles

• How to manage a cooperative

• How to access financial resources

• How to advocate for the rights of jeepney drivers and operators

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Project Mani(be)la

To support the government’s efforts as far as training is concerned, Junior Chamber International Manila and Junior Chamber International Iloilo Ilang-ilang, with the support of FNF Philippines, came up with Project Mani(be)la, a program to support the transport workers because helping this sector is a crucial part of the organization’s campaign for the freedom of movement in the country.

The project was held on June 17-18, 2023 at the Goldberry Hotel in Iloilo. Experts facilitated sessions on the following topics: Building Sustainable Solutions in the Transportation Sector, Financial Planning, Enterprise Structure Setup: Cooperative Development Authority (CDA)  and the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), Financial Accounting, Spare Parts and Inventory Planning, Fleet Management Solutions, Dispatch and Scheduling of Drivers, and Setting Up a Cooperative.

Our jeepney drivers and small operators are often marginalized and low-income workers. They need all the support they can get to be able to adjust to necessary changes in the sector. Programs like Project Mani(be)la can go a long way in bridging the gaps and ensuring a just transition for the drivers, operators, and jeepney cooperatives in the country.