Granted, the public utility vehicle is a basic mode of public transport and a unique Filipino cultural
It is a national symbol known throughout the world.
But the public utility jeepney has serious health and safety issues that have been ignored by
authorities for decades.
Now, it is time to consider junking the PUJ, and the Duterte administration has the strong
political will to do it.
President Duterte threatened Tuesday to scrap by next year the "jeepneys" that have become a
national symbol, as he became embroiled in a showdown with the mass transport industry.
The flamboyantly-decorated but smoke-belching vehicles were originally converted from surplus
World War II US army jeeps but now largely use reconditioned diesel engines from Japan.
Citing pollution and health concerns, Duterte said Tuesday the old jeepneys would have to be
switched for modern and less-polluting versions by 2018.
His threat came after a two-day strike by jeepney operators led by the transport group PISTON,
which had previously rejected the modernization scheme.
"You know, you are poisoning the people... one third of Filipinos are poor and they will die
from lung cancer because you do not want to fix your used engines," Duterte said in a speech to
military men, referring to the jeepney operators.
"This is what I will do: either you must modernize next year those jeeps of yours, you must
sell them to the junkyard. Next year I do not want to see any single PUJ (public utility jeepney.) All
those still operating will be towed off the streets," he added.
For decades the colorfully-decorated jeepney has served as the main form of public transport
and a symbol of Filipino creativity.
The government wants them replaced with less polluting vehicles, either with better engines or
electrical power and with modern safety measures.
A leftist labor group led a two-day jeepney strike aimed at forcing the government to
reconsider the phase-out of the jeepney, but was largely unsuccessful.
The larger jeepney organizations simply ignored the strike call even as the government
suspended work in many agencies while classes were cancelled in Metro Manila.