MANILA – Thousands of jeepney drivers in the Philippines went on strike Monday in protest against plans to modernize the traditional mode of transport in order to make it better for the environment.
According to the Alliance of Concerned Transport Organizations (OTCA), some 70,000 jeepneys – each with space for 20 passengers – were brought to a halt due to the action.
The authorities laid on additional bus services for people who rely on the mode of transport to get to work.
Jeepneys are privately-owned vehicles that offer group transportation at affordable rates in the Asian nation’s congested cities, especially the capital Manila, where the public transport is insufficient.
But the decorative vehicles are also a symbol of national identity.
Jeepneys have been on the road since the end of World War II, when the Philippines adopted US military jeeps that were left at the end of the conflict.
Decades later, jeepneys are still made according to the same design, although they have been extended to accommodate more passengers and painted in bright colors.
For years, the authorities have been trying to renovate the beloved mode of transport, whose old second-hand engines are highly polluting.
In 2017, the government passed a plan that would remove jeepneys that by 2020 were older than 15 years old, and replace them with vehicles that run on ecological engines.
That plan affects some 300,000 jeepneys.
The Stop and Go coalition, which brings together the drivers affected, deemed the plan to be “anti-poor” as the new e-jeepney models cost about 2 million pesos ($38,500), a significant sum for workers who earn around 20,000 pesos per month.
The president of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board, Martin Delgra, said on Monday that the governmental entity would assume 5 percent of the capital, 6 percent of the interest and offer the possibility of paying over their course of seven years to drivers who sign up to the plan.
Delgra said Congress has approved an 80,000-peso subsidy for each e-jeepney and some 5,642 drivers have already joined the plan.