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Friday, July 19, 2024

Wanted: A just transition for the jeepney sector (1)

“Does climate action really have to be at odds with livelihood and economic security of those affected by the shift?”

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The impending weeklong jeepney strike on March 6 to 12 has resurfaced the heated and spirited debate on the Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP) and the issues that come with it.

Among these issues are the lack of available financial support and safety nets for jeepney modernization and the decreased accessibility of public transport caused by the consolidation of franchises and fleet management.

While the program started in 2017 under the Duterte administration, the COVID-19 pandemic has postponed the government’s push for its implementation.

Yet now, more than ever, the PUVMP is apparently gaining traction under the present administration.

The government has enacted the Electric Vehicle Industry Development Act or EVIDA.

Private sector investment and interest have signaled the viability of electric vehicles in the Philippines, not only for private but also for public transportation.

Electric mobility has been taking space in the development agenda of international organizations and international financial institutions.

Government policy and private sector outlook, and even the international agenda, have adapted.

However, small scale operators, drivers, and those dependent on the traditional jeepney industry (whether manufacturing, assembly, maintenance, and other related support services) have obviously not (owing to the heavy losses from the pandemic and high fuel prices in the past year), and will continue to be left behind should the PUVMP be implemented in its current form.

Electric vehicles and the climate

The transport sector remains to be one of the fastest growing greenhouse gas emitting sectors.

With the increasing demand for vehicles in the post-COVID world, especially in low-income and developing countries, and without any vehicle demand reduction through public transportation reform or a shift to more sustainable vehicle options, the reliance of the transport sector on fossil fuel and non-renewable energy sources is alarming globally.

From the point of view of climate change mitigation, carbon emissions must be minimized, if not net-zero, in order to prevent irreversible global warming that leads to extreme climate and slow onset events.

According to the United Nations Environment Programme, “[t]o achieve a cleaner transport sector, a combination of measures needs to be implemented world-wide: better-designed cities; safe and comfortable walking and cycling facilities; more public transport; and cleaner and more efficient on-road fleets, including electric vehicles.”

One of the ways to achieve this is through the shift to electric mobility.

While there are demand generation strategies and incentives to increase electric vehicle market for Philippine households and consumers, in the Philippine public transport parlance, it is what we know as jeepney modernization or PUVMP. However, it begs the question, does climate action really have to be at odds with livelihood and economic security of those affected by the shift?

Just transition in jeepney modernization

In climate change policy and action, the concept of just transition directly tackles the question posed above.

Just transition, briefly put, refers to the following concern. In the shift from a largely fossil fuel-dependent society to a sustainable society with ready access to renewable energy sources and technologies, workers and frontline communities who depend on fossil fuel-dependent industries must not inequitably carry the burden and costs of such shift.

Otherwise stated, just transition asks: “How must the costs of the shift to a sustainable society be equitably shared across stakeholders?”

(Tony La Viña teaches law and is Associate Director for climate policy in the Manila Observatory; Kaloi Zarate, a public transport sector policy reform advocate, is a former three-term member of the House of Representatives, and Deputy Minority Leader, of the 18thCongress; while Jayvy Gamboa is a policy and legal research associate at the Manila Observatory with a research interest on just transition, particularly on labor law and regulation).

(Editor’s Note: This is adapted from an article co-written by Tony La Viña with Kaloi Zarate and Jyvy Gamboa.)

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