The iconic Jeepney public vehicles are a representation of the Philippines, but minibus company owner Freddie Hernandez supports efforts to have them taken off the road.
He was one of the first transportation providers to abide by government directives to gradually replace cherished but outdated utility cars with safer, greener buses.
'We saw the benefits of modernizing our units in terms of lowering their carbon emissions,' Hernandez, the chair of a transport service cooperative in Metro Manila, an urban sprawl of 16 cities, said.
"The public will eventually profit from it as well if the environment benefits from it."
However, other public transportation executives claim the program is burdening them with unaffordable costs and will put 61,000 conventional jeepney drivers out of a job as they approach a deadline to update their fleets.
After World War Two, abandoned American military jeeps were converted into jeepney mini-trucks, which Filipinos later replicated to satisfy Manila's transportation needs.
The most well-liked mode of public transportation in the nation is the open-air minibus, also known as the "Kings of the Road," which is covered in colorful decorations, images, and statements.
But a 2018 research by the National Center for Transportation Studies at the University of the Philippines identified them as a significant source of pollution, responsible for nearly half of the airborne particulate matter in the Metro Manila area.
In 2017, the transport ministry mandated the replacement of jeepneys that were 15 years of age or greater with newer models imported from nearby Asian nations like China and Japan.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the government initially set a deadline of March 2020, but on February 21 it stated operators must comply by June 30 or risk losing their license to operate.
Transport companies have encouraged officials to reconsider their plans because they claim the program is driving them into debt due to large loans and maintenance problems.
The program's implementing organization, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB), said it was helping jeepney owners with subsidies for new cars. He claimed that those who gave up their transportation licenses would receive "social support," such as free skill training and other employment possibilities.
Additionally, the agency stated that it is requesting government institutions to expedite loan approvals.
Hernandez said that despite supporting the plan, his cooperative is having trouble affording the upgrade costs as they deal with a drop in passengers brought on by the pandemic and high gasoline prices.