THE focus last week was on Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Junard Chan. Some other mayor could be next.
Chan became the center of attention when he opposed the fielding of e-jeeps or modernized jeepneys in Lapu-Lapu’s main roads because these would affect the income of tricycle and multicab drivers and worsen congestion in the small streets. He later changed his position after getting criticized for not trying a solution to the traffic mess and after a visit from Presidential Assistant to the Visayas Michael Dino.
What happened to Chan could happen to mayors of other local government units (LGUs) in Cebu as more and more of these modernized jeepneys will be assigned to them in the next months leading to the deadline for full modernization in June 2020.
In less than a year, cities throughout the country will see their jeepneys replaced with the e-jeeps that look like mini-buses and are bigger, safer, comfortable and environmentally friendly. Units are air-conditioned and have internet connection and a tracking system. Those who tried them attest to an improved and trouble-free ride.
But what if the LGU head who gets assigned the e-jeeps disagrees with the route identified for the city?
Chan, in a recorded interview with reporters Wednesday, July 17, 2019, said he rejects the deployment of the 25 e-jeeps given the City as these would decrease the income of some 4,000 tricycle and multicab drivers and congest the roads further. He talked about deciding to limit the route of e-jeeps to the three Philippine Economic Zone Authority zones in Mactan and not allow them on the Mactan circumferential road.
He took back his statements the next day, Thursday, after a talk with Dino who represents President Rodrigo Duterte in the Visayas.
The fielding of e-jeeps is part of the Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program launched by the Department of Transportation of the Philippines in 2017. It is intended to make the country’s public transportation system efficient and environmentally friendly by 2020.
In Cebu, the modernization program is just one of the many steps being readied to address transportation problems.
Chan said that what he wanted was for him to design the e-jeep route. Other mayors may want that, too. Cities have their own peculiarities so that what applies to one may not be apply to the other. Mayors and legislative bodies are in the best position to determine the route but they must abide by the goals of the modernization program.
Under the program, local officials may propose routes for the e-jeeps but it is the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board that issues franchises that identify areas of operation.
Questions about feasibility and route assignment are concerns for Chan for now but may be the same apprehensions of mayors next in line to get those units.
A mechanism or a provision in the program guidelines should be put in place to address this.