Govt offers jeepney drivers, operators aid to modernize PUJs

MANILA — The government will implement a financial assistance program for public utility jeepney (PUJ) operators and drivers in line with efforts to modernize the country’s public transportation system.

Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade, Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) chairperson Martin Delgra III, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, and Land Bank of the Philippines president Alex Buenaventura signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to establish a financing program for jeepney modernization in a ceremony held in Davao City last April 30.

“Perhaps it is providential indeed that we sign this memorandum of agreement today. This financing program is a gift from the President through the Department of Finance and Landbank for jeepney operators and drivers,” Tugade said in a statement.

The Landbank’s Special Environment-Friendly and Efficiently-Driven Jeepney (SPEED) program will provide a credit facility to individual drivers and operators to enable them to replace their PUJs in compliance with the government’s public utility vehicle (PUV) modernization program.

Through this program, an initial budget of PHP1 billion for individual loans will be awarded to 650 PUJ operators and drivers in Metro Manila to enable them to acquire a jeepney with a minimum requirement of Euro-4 engine or better.

“The lending packages are very generous. It offers low equity, longer payment period, and very low interest rates,” Delgra said.

He explained that the modernization program is an effort to overhaul the country’s transportation system — from the quality of units to the drivers.

According to Delgra, the government intends public transportation to be adequate, safe and comfortable to passengers.

“We’re looking at a travel time that is predictable. We’re looking also at PUV drivers who are disciplined, competent, and mindful of the common good,” he said.

Dominguez, who is concurrent Landbank chairperson, appealed to drivers, operators and commuters to support the initiative.

“We must convince jeepney drivers and operators that this is the way to go. They must understand that the financing package will make the shift affordable. The public must understand that our inefficient dinosaur, the PUJ, must now be relegated to the museum. It is dirty, inefficient, unhealthy and unsafe for commuters. It is time we bring our public transport to the 21st century,” he said.

For her part, LTFRB Board member Aileen Lizada said, “Do not worry. Trust us that what we are doing is for the development of our country, which is also for your welfare and for the upliftment of the socio-economic status of your respective families.”

The program aims to modernize the fleet of jeepneys plying the road though a low carbon and low emission vehicle technology by imposing a 15-year limit on PUJs.

Standards on carbon emission and fleet management and maintenance would also be imposed to ensure passenger safety and improve air quality.

More than 220,000 PUJs are registered nationwide, 90 percent of which are 15 years old and above. They are the biggest source of CO2 emission resulting in 5,000 deaths annually.

More specific details of the financing program is already being worked out by the transportation department and Landbank, and will soon be made available to the public for guidance. Aerol Pateña/