Sarao e-Jeepney (Topgear photo courtesy)
ALTHOUGH the opening salvo of the supposed weeklong jeepney strike seemed to be a dud, it ain’t over till it’s over.
The government just can’t placate the protesting drivers with the Land Transit Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) moving its deadline, from June 30 to December 31, for traditional jeepneys to consolidate into cooperatives or corporations.
Not because the jeepney drivers abhor the idea of forming themselves into cooperatives, but it’s the imprimatur that consolidated entities are required to buy modern jeepneys that can cost operators up to P2.8 million each.
With the present economic difficulties under a backward capitalist system, can ordinary jeepney drivers and operators afford such high costs?
Naturally, many still fear that their livelihoods are at risk with this so-called modernization scheme for the traditional public jeepneys.
Some jeepney drivers and operators also can’t help but suspect the motive why the jeepney coops will have to buy units from China.
They wondered aloud: Is there a sweetheart deal?
We have nothing against modernizing our ever-popular mode of public transportation.
It is cheaper than taking a bus or taxi.
We take pride that the “King of the road” was invented in the Philippines and it has been serving the public for almost 80 years.
But we must also not lose sight that there are many jeepneys that are so notorious for smoke-belching while some drivers drive like there’s no tomorrow.
That is why we welcome the “glasnost” or openness of the Francisco Motor Corp. (FMC) to shift to assembling public utility vehicles (PUVs) with electric motors that retain the jeepney’s traditional design.
“Since we are now engaging on full electric, I am going all in. We will no longer make diesel-powered jeepneys,” Elmer Francisco, owner of FMC, disclosed in a recent interview with The Manila Times.
He was pragmatic enough to accept the reality that soon traditional jeepneys would be extinct with the full implementation of the Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP).
Francisco — whose uncle established the FMC in 1947 — revealed that the company has modernized the jeepney to make it compliant with the PUVMP.
We learned that the PUVMP aims to phase out all jeepneys that are 15 years old and older and replace them with brand new ones that conform with the Philippine National Standards and are powered by either an electric powertrain or at least a Euro 4 compliant diesel engine.
Francisco further bared that from diesel-fueled jeepneys, the FMC intends to mass produce fully electric Francisco Passenger Jeepneys after it has received an endorsement from the Department of Transportation for inspection by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).
If this pushes through, then the fear of compulsion to buy China-made modern jeepneys may calm down the doubting Thomases among the jeepney drivers and operators.
Indeed, nothing is permanent but change.