Motor Vehicles and Filipino Jeepney Drivers in Metro Manila

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jeep-toploadScientific research in support of government’s transportation policies is crucial in addressing the National Capital Region’s (NCR) perennial traffic problem.

Studies have been conducted by government in cooperation with international organizations, but these apparently lack consultation with the road-users who are stakeholders and beneficiaries of government action. The most affected population, the Filipino drivers and commuters, deserve to have their voices heard for a truly inclusive response to the NCR’s chaotic traffic situation.

The 2014 SONA Technical Report of the Aquino administration credits the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) with developing the country’s Transport Roadmap for Metro Manila and Its Surrounding Areas “to address the worsening traffic congestion, lessen traffic accidents, and minimize noise and air pollution in highly urbanized areas through investments in public transportation and traffic management systems.”


Jeepney drivers and operators rally for government interventions to curb “unrestrained” oil price hikes, create a nationalized oil industry, and protect consumers against alleged overpricing of products. Photo from PISTON.

Mr. George San Mateo, national president of the militant Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide (Piston), said they were not consulted by these studies.

Their access to official data and research is likewise limited so they had to use estimates or “rule of thumb” in the past to analyze data on the public transport sector, specifically on jeepney drivers and operators.

Data from the Department of Transportation and Communications – Land Transportation Office (DOTC-LTO) for 2013 shows a total of 7,690,038 registered motor vehicles in the country. Of the said total, 868,148 are cars; 1,794,572 utility vehicles (UVs); 346,396 sport utility vehicles (SUVs); 358,445 trucks; 31,665 buses; 4,250,667 motorcycles or tricycles; and 40,145 trailers. The LTO lists a total of 2,101,148 motor vehicles registered in NCR, or 27 percent of the country’s total.1

The Asian Development Bank’s Philippines: Transport Sector Assessment, Strategy, and Road Map (2012) describes the country’s transport services as “consisting mainly of jeepneys (public utility vehicles), taxis, tricycles, and pedicabs that are privately owned and operated. In 2010, taxis comprised 667,424 (35 percent) of the 1.9 million vehicles in Metro Manila, and half of the 6.6 million vehicles in the country were motorcycles.”

A study by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (2013) revealed that 86 percent of motor vehicles were private, 13 percent for hire, and only 1 percent government-owned. Of the total number of vehicles traversing NCR, only 1.8 percent were public utility buses.

According to the Roadmap for Transport Infrastructure Development for Metro Manila and Its Surrounding Areas (Region III & Region IV-A) report2 produced by JICA and National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), citing 2012 data:

Buses, jeepneys and Asian utility vehicles (AUVs) basically comprise the road-based public transport services in the Greater Capital Region (GCR)…, which are all owned and operated by the private sector but regulated by the Land Transportation Franchising Regulatory Board (LTFRB)… DOTC has estimated the number at 5,331 city buses. Inter-city (or provincial) buses servicing the northern regions and Metro Manila is approximately 3,300 units, and another 4,000 in the southern regions. DOTC stated 7,736 buses in its justification for establishing common provincial bus terminals to replace the individually-owned terminals within the metropolis.

Jeepneys, with their urban carrying capacities ranging from 18 to 22, are more for the intra-city service. The jeepneys, which number more than 70,000 in the GCR area, are patronized by the low and middle income strata and carry more than 40 percent of daily trips in the metropolis. About half of the jeepney population in the three regions cater to the metropolis alone.

The AUV (also includes Filcab or FX) is of recent origin. It functions as a shared taxi and has been found convenient by office-bound employees. Both the jeepneys and AUVs provide only intra-city services in GCR.

A smaller version of the jeepney is the so-called multi-cab with a seating capacity of 12. This type of public transport runs on shorter routes. Multi-cabs are found in the reclamation area of Metro Manila and in the urban areas of Regions III and Region IV-A.

The study estimates the number of jeepneys at 34,522 units; UVs at 6,000 units; and tricycles and pedicabs at 200,000 in the NCR alone.

According to the DOTC-LTO report, a total of 4,825,584 driver’s licences and permits were issued in 2013. Of this, 2,018,967 were professional, 1,287,073 were non-professional, and 1,506,848 were student driver’s permits/licences. Of the total, 1,277,785 or more than one-fourth of the licences and permits were issued in NCR.


Jeepney drivers denounce alleged overpricing and consecutive oil price hikes in transport protests in front of the offices of oil corporations in Makati City, Philippines. Photo from PISTON.

San Mateo estimated the number of jeepney drivers (and alternate drivers or relievers) at 162,500 and jeepney operators at 45,000.

San Mateo said jeepney drivers’ ages range from 18 to even more than 74 years old. They start driving as soon as they receive a license and work for as long as they can to earn a living.

Drivers render public service by transporting commuters, yet do not have benefits and social protection unlike government employees.

“Ang mga jeepney driver ay ‘mala-manggagawa’ kumpara sa mga bus driver na ‘manggagawa’ kasi may employee-employer relationship sa mga bus company habang walang employee-employer relationship sa mga jeepney driver,” said San Mateo, as regards social class. Majority of drivers come from the rural areas, “uring magsasaka,” the peasant class. “Karamihan dating magsasaka, iniwan ang lupa at pumunta sa sentrong lunsod,” he said. Most of them migrated to the urban centers in search of better living conditions but end up comprising the urban poor sector. Other drivers have either been retired or retrenched laborers, government employees (police and military), overseas workers, and part-timers.

San Mateo estimated the daily gross income of jeepney drivers on a 24-hour-run at Php500-600 or only equivalent to a Php250 per day take-home income for a 12-hour-shift, an amount way below the minimum wage standard for workers. He said there was no standard “boundary” or amount given to the jeepney operator. “Walang fixed amount, depende sa usapan, depende sa seating capacity, route, sitwasyon ng trapik.” For instance, short routes would require payments for operators as low as Php600 while long routes would require Php1,000 or more as boundary for a 24-hour-run.

San Mateo said it was necessary for jeepney drivers and operators to band together to form organizations. Since they shared common routes, they formed route-based associations and joined larger federations to protect and advance the jeepney drivers’ welfare. He said Piston, as a progressive federation, relies on collective and militant action. Approximately 40 percent of NCR jeepney drivers have links with Piston.

San Mateo said their sector’s urgent needs and concerns are similar to the urban poor’s: to have reliable sources of livelihood and basic social services, such as housing, public health and education.

In addition to better public services from government, San Mateo proposes the reduction of taxes imposed on oil products and the scrapping of unjust fees and penalties imposed on drivers. Drivers contribute to the national coffers each time they purchase diesel and other petroleum products. For instance, if a driver consumes 30 liters of diesel per day with 12 percent value-added tax, this amounts to Php150 per day worth of taxes paid.

Multiplied by 300,000, this is equivalent to as much as Php40M worth of taxes contributed by drivers per day, or in one year, a total of up to Php12B contributed by drivers to the national budget. “Essentially, jeepney drivers are public servants,” he emphasized.

San Mateo said drivers benefit from affordable diesel since the amount they are able to earn and take home decreases as oil prices increase. Drivers also want “kotong” or extortion to be eradicated. He lamented that drivers, though already impoverished, are being made into “cash cows” by government, through unjust fines and fees, and corrupt traffic enforcers who prey on drivers whether or not a violation was committed. “Sa ganito, hinahayaan ng gobyernong maging chaotic ang kalsada.”

San Mateo explained how the driver who is motivated by economic survival to earn a little income would be tempted to pick up or drop off passengers on undesignated areas. A corrupt enforcer sees this as an opportunity to collect “tong” or “lagay” or money. “Yung tiwali ang gumagawa ng paraan para makapangotong. Kung walang humihingi ng lagay, walang magbibigay ng lagay,” he said.

San Mateo added how traffic problems have been aggravated by the volume of vehicles and the poor condition of roads.

“Ayon mismo sa MMDA, 80 porsiyento ng sasakyan sa NCR ay mga private vehicle, 20 porsiyento ang public transport (1 porsiyento truck, 3 porsiyento bus, 40 porsiyento jeepney). Less than 20 percent ng populasyon ang may private vehicle pero preferred ng may-kaya ang private vehicle kaysa public transport dahil iniisip nila ang convenience nila,” he explained.

San Mateo wraps up his recommendations to solve the transport sector’s woes: establish a nationalized, modern, efficient, safe, and affordable mass transport system. For him, the foremost mode of transport should be the railways and train system, which would make commuting along strategic thoroughfares convenient, and transport of goods more efficient. “Trains can carry commuters and goods. But not through public-private partnership. Kailangan nationalized ang mass transport, not privatized,” he said.

“Pero bago magkaroon nito, kailangang magkaroon ng tunay na repormang agraryo at national industrialization.” .

“Kapag maraming private vehicle, ibig sabihin ay pangit ang public transport. Sa maunlad na bansa, ang mayayaman ay nagcocommute,” concluded San Mateo.
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