MANILA -- Think tank Ibon Foundation urged the government to use the PHP27-billion subsidy under the Comprehensive Automotive Resurgence Strategy (CARS) program to help operators and drivers fund their purchase of modernized public utility jeepneys (PUJs).

In a position paper submitted to the House Committee on Transportation, IBON senior researcher Glenis Balangue said the government can use the CARS fund to initially subsidize jeepney drivers and operators through their cooperatives so as not to displace them by the mere cost of new units.

"Subsidizing the cost of jeepneys, without the interest, will still entail a substantial amount for loan payments but is relatively more manageable even for those who currently have hard time meeting the 'boundary' system," Balangue said.

"It is a noteworthy investment for the government to do so, given that the proliferation of this mode of transport has been a result of the chronic lack of livelihood opportunities and neglect of mass transportation in the first place," she added.

Balangue stressed the need to conduct a transparent audit of all the registered PUJs, including identification units, which can still be rehabilitated.

“The palit jeepney program should be complemented by an assured regular maintenance program at no or minimal cost to the cooperative. This should address the added burden of having to be subjected to expensive maintenance for a technology that is still concentrated on a few big businesses,” Balangue said.

The Department of Finance reported that the program would cost PHP417 billion for the next five years, including the PHP8 billion subsidy for the purchase of public utility vehicles (PUVs) and PHP3.9 billion for the Office of Transport Cooperatives.

Under the PUV Modernization Program, jeepney units that are 15 years old will be replaced with Euro 4 engines or electrically-powered engines with solar panels for roofs. These will also be equipped with closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras, a GPS navigation system, an Automatic Fare Collection System (AFCS), speed limiters, dashboard cameras, and Wi-Fi. (PNA)