Senator criticizes plan to import jeepneys from China

MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Raffy Tulfo has expressed opposition to the government’s alleged plan to import modern jeepney units from China to replace the traditional jeepney vehicles even as modern jeepneys made by local manufacturers are more affordable — a move that he said “reeks of corruption.”

Tulfo said that local jeepney manufacturers can produce modern vehicles at a lower price than the cost of importing China-made jeepneys, which are pegged at P2.6 to P2.9 million per unit.  

“Our waters in the West Philippine Sea are already being occupied by China. Will we let our roads be occupied by them?” Tulfo said in Filipino. 

Tulfo cited as an example the price points of vehicles made by local manufacturers Sarao and Francisco Motors, which he said make modern jeepneys that cost P900,000 to P985,000 a piece.

The senator added that the government can save around P1.7 million per unit if they choose a local manufacturer instead of a Chinese company and that prioritizing Filipino vehicle makers would create thousands of jeepneys and job opportunities for local workers.

Sarao Motors is a known Filipino manufacturer that has become synonymous with jeepneys in the Philippines. As early as 2014, the company has been working on a prototype that updates the traditional jeepney unit to include air conditioning and other features. 

Sarao Motors’ plans to create electric jeepneys hit a snag in March 2023, a company representative told TeleRadyo, due to a delay in receiving technologically advanced materials needed to comply with the government’s modernization program.

Meanwhile, Elmer Francisco, the owner of Francisco Motors, said in a radio interview in December that their electric jeep will be completely made with locally sourced materials and cost P985,000 each. 

According to a policy brief by the University of the Philippines Center for Integrative and Development Studies in 2023, modern jeepneys are relatively more expensive than traditional units because even though their parts are assembled locally, these use “imported parts and equipment sourced from huge corporations abroad.”

In 2022, Transport Secretary Jaime Bautista said that the department was working with a transport cooperative that plans to import electric mini buses from China. 

RELATED: ‘Gawang Pinoy’: Manufacturer promotes cheaper modern jeepney option

The House of Representatives is set to conduct a probe this week on allegations of corruption hounding the PUV modernization program. 

This comes after House Speaker Martin Romualdez said that his office received reports that current transport officials colluded with former officials to negotiate the imported modern jeepney units that will replace the traditional vehicles.

 — with reports by Franco Luna and Camille Diola


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