Philippines to phase out its beloved cheap but rickety jeepneys

MANILA (Reuters) - Jeepneys, the flamboyant passenger trucks of the Philippines, are nearing the end of their reign as the "Kings of the Road", but they're not going down without a fight.

Government moves to overhaul outdated public transport, making it safer and more environment friendly, will put the brakes on a mode of travel that has long been the surest and cheapest option in a country of 105 million people.

But the operators and drivers of the 200,000 jeepneys that have plied the nation's roads and highways for decades are defiant, denouncing moves to oust them as "anti-poor" and a threat to their livelihoods.

"It is a big hassle to us poor people since we are the ones suffering," said one jeepney driver, upset after traffic police pulled him over because his vehicle was belching black smoke.

15 PHOTOS
Philippines beloved Jeepneys
See Gallery
Philippines beloved Jeepneys
A row of jeepneys are seen plying a road in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines January 20, 2018. Picture taken January 20, 2018. REUTERS/Dondi Tawatao
Rows of jeepneys adorned with colorful pop culture characters are photographed on a main thoroughfare in Quezon City, metro Manila, Philippines May 29, 2017. REUTERS/Dondi Tawatao FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES
An artist puts finishing touches on a vehicle during the Jeepney painting competition at a mall in Manila September 21, 2012. The Jeepney Arts Festival pays homage to the country's most popular mode of transport, transforming ageing vehicles into icons instead of traffic nuisances. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco (PHILIPPINES - Tags: SOCIETY TRANSPORT)
Artists put finishing touches on a vehicle during the Jeepney painting competition at a mall in Manila September 21, 2012. The Jeepney Arts Festival pays homage to the country's most popular mode of transport, transforming ageing vehicles into icons instead of traffic nuisances. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco (PHILIPPINES - Tags: SOCIETY TRANSPORT)
ATTENTION EDITORS: PICTURE 6 OF 21 FOR PACKAGE 'A MOTHER'S SACRIFICE' Erly Famadula cleans a jeepney bought from remittances sent by his wife Susan, in the town of Santa Maria, in the province of Pangasinan, north of Manila March 5, 2012. Susan has worked as a domestic helper in Hong Kong for 15 years, earning money for her family. They endure the long separation by chatting online regularly. Picture taken March 5, 2012. REUTERS/Cheryl Ravelo (PHILIPPINES - Tags: BUSINESS EMPLOYMENT SOCIETY)
THIS PICTURE IS 11 OF 25 TO ACCOMPANY INSIGHT "ELECTRIC-CAR/BIG OIL". SEARCH IN YOUR PICTURE SYSTEM FOR KEYWORD "ELECTRIC VEHICLES" TO SEE ALL IMAGES. (PXP310-334) A government employee drives an electric Jeepney at a charging station in Manila's Makati financial district January 30, 2012. Many of the headlines out of autoshows in the past couple of years have been captured by the launch of electric cars such as Nissan's Leaf, the Tesla sports car, plug-ins like General Motors' Chevrolet Volt, and the latest incarnation of the Toyota Prius. Other manufacturers including BMW, Rolls Royce and Porsche have presented electric-powered prototypes. On the basis of this, one could be forgiven for thinking the auto industry is betting big on electric power. Yet few auto executives share the optimism of Renault and Nissan chief executive Carlos Ghosn who has repeatedly said he sees electric vehicles making up 10 percent of all sales in 2020. A survey of 200 auto industry executives conducted by KPMG released on Monday gave an average forecast for electric vehicles to account for 6-10 percent of global auto sales in 2025, more bullish than oil companies BP and Exxon who expect electric cars to make up no more than 4-5 percent of all cars globally in 20-30 years. Picture taken January 30, 2012. To match Insight ELECTRIC-CAR/BIG OIL REUTERS/Erik De Castro (PHILIPPINES - Tags: TRANSPORT BUSINESS ENERGY ENVIRONMENT SOCIETY SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY)
THIS PICTURE IS 12 OF 25 TO ACCOMPANY INSIGHT "ELECTRIC-CAR/BIG OIL". SEARCH IN YOUR PICTURE SYSTEM FOR KEYWORD "ELECTRIC VEHICLES" TO SEE ALL IMAGES. (PXP310-334) Filipino drivers charge government-owned electric Jeepneys at a charging station in Manila's Makati financial district January 30, 2012. Many of the headlines out of autoshows in the past couple of years have been captured by the launch of electric cars such as Nissan's Leaf, the Tesla sports car, plug-ins like General Motors' Chevrolet Volt, and the latest incarnation of the Toyota Prius. Other manufacturers including BMW, Rolls Royce and Porsche have presented electric-powered prototypes. On the basis of this, one could be forgiven for thinking the auto industry is betting big on electric power. Yet few auto executives share the optimism of Renault and Nissan chief executive Carlos Ghosn who has repeatedly said he sees electric vehicles making up 10 percent of all sales in 2020. A survey of 200 auto industry executives conducted by KPMG released on Monday gave an average forecast for electric vehicles to account for 6-10 percent of global auto sales in 2025, more bullish than oil companies BP and Exxon who expect electric cars to make up no more than 4-5 percent of all cars globally in 20-30 years. Picture taken January 30, 2012. To match Insight ELECTRIC-CAR/BIG OIL REUTERS/Erik De Castro (PHILIPPINES - Tags: TRANSPORT BUSINESS ENERGY ENVIRONMENT SOCIETY SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY)
Jeepney passengers try to catch a shirt thrown to them during a motorcade of Senator and Philippine presidential candidate Manuel Villar around Quezon City, Metro Manila, May 8, 2010. The Philippines will hold its presidential elections on May 10. REUTERS/Cheryl Ravelo (PHILIPPINES - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS IMAGES OF THE DAY)
Colorfully adorned "Jeepney" (mini bus) is one of Manila's major public transport that ply minor throughfares August 30, 2009. The capital of the Philippines is not the kind of place you fall in love with at first sight: the Spanish colonial-era mega-city is home to around 12 million people, congested, polluted and often chaotic. Picture taken August 30, 2009. REUTERS/Cheryl Ravelo (PHILIPPINES SOCIETY TRAVEL)
Members of an indigenous tribe carry makeshift musical instruments while riding a public jeepney in Manila October 16, 2008. People from impoverished tribal communities travel to the Philippine capital during the holiday season to sing Christmas carols in the street and ask for alms. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco (PHILIPPINES)
Battery powered jeepneys hit the road for the first time in Manila's financial district of Makati November 10, 2009. Passengers received a free ride as the city government showcased its project, part of a campaign to reduce greenhouse emissions. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco (PHILIPPINES POLITICS ENVIRONMENT TRANSPORT BUSINESS)
A jeepney crosses a bridge as Mount Mayon makes a mild eruption in Daraga, Albay province, Philippines, January 25, 2018. Mount Mayon, the Philipines' most active volcano located in eastern Philippines, has been spewing fresh lava and ash for almost two weeks. More than 74,000 people have been evacuated in emergency shelters as authorities warn of a potentialy hazardous eruption that could take place in just days. Photo: Ezra Acayan/NurPhoto (Photo by Ezra Acayan/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Commuters ride in the popular Philippines public transport 'jeepney' in Manila on November 11, 2017. Philippines will host the two-day 31st Association of the Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Manila starting November 13. / AFP PHOTO / MANAN VATSYAYANA (Photo credit should read MANAN VATSYAYANA/AFP/Getty Images)
A jeepney driver changes gear while sitting in traffic in Manila, the Philippines, on Sunday, April 9, 2017. Smoke-belching�jeepneys�are as iconic to Manila as the cable cars of San Francisco, the gondolas on Venice's canals and the black cabs in London. The most popular public transport in the Philippines is now being targeted for the scrap heap as�President�Rodrigo Duterte�tries to modernize the nation and clean up its air. Photographer: Veejay Villafranca/Bloomberg via Getty Images
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Jeepneys have evolved from surplus army jeeps left behind by the U.S. military after World War II to become brightly-painted vehicles festooned with religious slogans, horoscope signs or family names.

At a cost of 8 pesos ($0.16) for a journey of 2.5 miles in Manila, the capital, they are easily affordable, but the ride is far from comfortable.

A typical jeepney packs in 10 to 16 commuters, sitting knee-to-knee on twin benches, and lacks air-conditioning or windows to shield occupants from the heat, rain and choking fumes.

In Metro Manila, one of Asia's most gridlocked mega-cities, passengers can sit there for hours.

There are no seatbelts and commuters have only ceiling bars to keep from being thrown off their seats as drivers race to beat traffic lights or edge out competitors for waiting passengers.

The government wants to force unsound and shabby jeepneys off the streets in favor of bigger, cleaner, safer and more modern replacements, some electric, others using cleaner fuel.

But drivers complain that the newer units, priced around 1.8 million pesos ($35,327), are prohibitively expensive, and government subsidies are paltry.

Some fear vested interests are at play.

"They only want to kick out the operators so they could let corporations take over," said George San Mateo, head of transport group PISTON, as he led a protest last week outside the transport regulator's office.

"The government is using this crackdown on dilapidated and smoke-belching jeepneys to force poor operators to buy new ones they cannot afford."

Regulators have said the plan, backed by President Rodrigo Duterte, aims simply to modernize public transport.

"There's a lot of public utility jeepneys which are old and dirty, so we have to address it," Martin Delgra, chairman of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board, told reporters.

"We cannot compromise safety when it comes to roadworthiness."

($1=50.9530 pesos)

(Editing by Martin Petty and Clarence Fernandez)

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.