Speaker Romualdez seeks investigation on the implementation of jeepney modernization program

House of Representatives of the Philippines Photo

SPEAKER Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez on Thursday directed the House
Committee on Transportation to immediately look “into reports received by my office that corrupt practices may have tainted the conceptualization and planned implementation” of the government’s public utility vehicle (PUV) or jeepney modernization program.

“The reports allege that existing transport officials are in cahoots with previous officials in negotiating for the imported modern jeepney units that will replace the old units,” Speaker Romualdez, the leader of the 300-plus-strong House of Representatives, said.

At the same time, Speaker Romualdez urged the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to undertake a “complete review” and extend the implementation of the of the program.

Under the PUV modernization program, jeepney operators and drivers are required to join or group themselves into transport cooperatives for efficiency and better management and accountability.

They receive a certain amount of subsidy from the government for every old jeepney unit replaced with a modern, air-conditioned jeepney that looks like a mini-bus.

The DOTr gave jeepney operators and drivers until the end of 2023 to join or organize themselves into transport cooperatives. Those unable to do so were given until the end of this month to comply with the requirement.

Speaker Romualdez expressed support for the program but called for enough measures that would protect jeepney drivers.

“While we stride towards modernity and efficiency, we remain steadfast in safeguarding the welfare and livelihood of our jeepney drivers, who are an integral part of this journey. Together, we can achieve a transportation system that is reflective of the Philippines’ growth, respecting our traditions while paving the way for a more sustainable future,” he said.

He said the iconic jeepney has “long been a symbol of our nation’s vibrant culture and enduring spirit.”

“As we embrace progress and innovation, it is imperative that we address the need for modern, efficient, and environmentally friendly transport systems. The jeepney modernization program is not just about upgrading vehicles; it’s a comprehensive plan to rejuvenate our urban transportation landscape, making it safer, more reliable, and in tune with sustainable practices,” he said.

However, he pointed out that it is crucial for the government to acknowledge that at the heart of the program “are the jeepney drivers – the hardworking individuals who have been the backbone of our local transport industry for decades.”

“Their welfare is our primordial concern. As we transition to modernized jeepneys, we recognize the challenges faced by drivers and operators,” he stressed.

The House leader called for measures to protect the livelihoods of jeepney drivers, including providing assistance as they shift to new vehicles, ensuring access to affordable financing options, and offering training programs to help them adapt to new technologies.

“Moreover, we are exploring avenues to provide fixed income opportunities for drivers. This move aims to stabilize their earnings, helping them to plan and secure their financial futures more effectively. We believe that a stable income will not only benefit the drivers but will also contribute to a more organized and reliable transport system,” he said.

He said until these measures are in place, he was appealing to the DOTr “to conduct a complete review of the modernization program and extend the period of its implementation.”