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SOMEONE ELSE’S WINDOWS: What price jeepney modernization?

mindaviews someone elses windows

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews / 12 March) — Who among the commuting public wouldn’t want a comfortable vehicle? Everybody, driver or passenger, is wishing for a hassle-free ride to and from work, school or wherever.

Who wouldn’t want a cleaner air to breathe? Only fools would say they love the smog of Metro Manila and the increasingly polluted air of other urbanized or urbanizing areas of the country.

These are the central reasons for the government’s push to modernize the jeepney, the ordinary Filipino’s main mode of transport in most cities. Or, at least, that’s what our officials are saying. The question is, can the hard-up drivers afford it?

Individual drivers could not obtain a loan on their own. They are required to be members of a cooperative first before they may avail of loans. That’s how banks operate, they make sure there’s a safety net for the money they lend, in this case, the cooperative as guarantor in case mamang tsuperdefaults on his obligation for reasons other than an unwillingness to pay I believe.

A unit of the new jeepney costs around 2.4 million pesos. If a driver obtains a 10-year loan for that amount, that’s 240,000 pesos a year or 20,000 pesos a month. He needs to earn a minimum of 700 pesos daily for the amortization, excluding the interest. Now, how about his family’s needs? And, for new jeepneys that would run on Euro 4 diesel (if building electric-powered units is more expensive), what if prices of fuel and parts keep increasing?

If you’re following, I’m not tackling this from a sentimental viewpoint, that is, trying to save a cultural icon that has outlived its usefulness vis-a-vis the need for a modern, energy-efficient alternative. It’s an issue of survival. The humanist in me could not bear to see thousands of families deprived of their livelihood as sacrificial pawns in the march towards transport modernization.

All is not lost if the other stakeholders can “sacrifice” a bit, though. For one, maybe there’s a way to reduce the P2.4-million cost of each new jeepney, e.g., reducing the tariff on the imported engines and other parts as well as the taxes on the assembled units.

I’m not pinning my hopes on the banks to reduce their interest rates. (It would be a miracle if they do.) Thus the other alternative is for the government to subsidize part of the cost of building new jeepneys or shoulder the interest of the loans.

It would be people’s money well-spent compared to the First Family going on junkets with dozens of hangers-on. Or compared to the shady Maharlika Fund. Or compared to the impending Constitutional Convention, which is self-serving on the part of the dynastic politicians.

To the last one we should shout in unison, Para (Stop)!

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at hmcmordeno@gmail.com.)

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