Open Letter to Pres. Marcos Jr.: Subsidize domestic jeepney makers
I am a humble economics graduate. My former teachers and your economics advisors may deem me right or wrong, but I believe that your simple solution to the current jeepney issue in the Philippines is to industrialize the transportation sector. Moreover, I am sure that sectors must have already pointed this out to you. Thus, I am just joining the chorus to emphasize this view.
After all, when you were still aspiring for the Philippine presidency, you said that “our manufacturing sector has really been diminished in the past few years for many reasons…We have to really go back and redesign that part of our economy.” This should also be inclusive of your wanting to have a “comprehensive, all-inclusive plan for economic transformation” which you promised to foster during your inaugural speech.
With the latest loudest uproar against the phasing out of jeepneys that are 15 or more years old with newer, cleaner minibuses, as well as the consolidation of operators and drivers into cooperatives bannered by your government’s PUV Modernization Programme (PUVMP), you are being given an opportunity to really execute an “economic transformation.”
After all, as an acknowledgement to the strike of the jeepney drivers last March 6, Manibela’s Chairman Mar Valbuena said , after you called the driver organizations’ officers in your office, the drivers would “hold onto the statement of our beloved President Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr that the administration is open to studying and revising the (plan) to maintain the livelihood of drivers and operators.”
I do hope that you be true to your statement because when you were still running in the 2022 presidential election, you promised that you would back the interests of drivers, winning their support for your campaign. Now that you are in office, many feel you broke your promise . “He broke his promise. He told us that as long as our vehicles passed the emissions testing, we would be able to provide a public service,” said Ventura, one of the strikers.
You did instruct your concerned agencies to study further the implementation of the phasing out of the old jeepneys, Mr. President. Implementation, however, your honor is not the core of the issue. The issue is that your government’s modernization program involves importation of very expensive vehicles beyond the reach of the operators and drivers. This means that they are going to buy vehicles manufactured and assembled in foreign lands like China. This begs the question of why can’t the Philippines not produce its own modern vehicles?
After all, Sarao Motors, established in 1953 with a budget then of only Php700.00 has proved capable of producing the majority of jeepneys that can now carry as many as 25 passengers. The company was also able to produce E-Jeepney vans which could ferry as much as more than 30 passengers. In 1964, a Sarao jeepney was exhibited in New York as a symbol of Filipino ingenuity. A Sarao also traveled from Manila to London and throughout Europe in 1971 proving the jeepney’s resilience and road worthiness in the international level.
Apart from Sarao, other manufacturers of jeepneys in the Philippines include Mega, which also produces the Lanceta line of jeepneys in Lipa, Batangas; Malagueña whose factory in Cavite was the site of one of the very first Yield Stops of The Amazing Race; and LGS Motors, Morales, Hebron, and Marinel which are all based in Rizal.
Sadly, competition with other manufacturers and importation of vehicles including the rising costs of production starting in 2000 have forced Philippine jeepney manufacturers to reduce less if not cease production altogether. Sarao, particularly, had to downsize from 300 employees to 50 to merely man the company’s collection department.
Mr. President, if your government will only subsidize these manufacturers, the Philippines will have a bustling transportation manufacturing industry. Not only will you be producing jeepneys that are competitive against imported vehicles, you will also be providing employment in the transport and allied services. Subsequently, because vehicles being bought locally will be much more affordable, the jeepney drivers who would be phased out will be more cooperative with your modernization program as they could bear the prize of the transition. Consumers will also be spared the higher cost of commuting as a result of non-higher charges by those plying their vehicles.
I believe this could be done, Mr. President, if you really have the heart for the people and have the political will to really want to serve them. After all, you and the vice-president have emergency personal budgets to spare to add to what your government could use to subsidize the transportation manufacturing industry.
Mr. President, at the expense of being redundant, maybe, your economic advisers, I believe, know that transportation is the vein of Philippine economy. Killing the drivers and higher commuter transport fees will further paralyze, in degrees, the livelihood of Filipinos.
Of course, the transportation sector is not the only problem of the Philippines but those problems are for other articles.