Public diplomacy, according to Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez, is what’s needed to push forward the government’ program of modernizing the entire fleet of some 220,000 aging public utility jeeps (PUJs) in order to reduce the number of vehicular accidents that they may potentially cause.

The biggest hurdle for the administration is convincing PUJ drivers and operators that shifting to more fuel-efficient and modern jeepneys will make them more productive while making the trips safer for commuters.

“Today, we embark on something more ambitious and politically challenging. We will try to replace 220,000 aging and inefficient jeepneys nationwide with new vehicles. The replacement vehicles will help clear the air literally, make commuting safer for the public and contribute to a more rational public transport system,” said Dominguez.

A memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed by Dominguez as Land Bank of the Philippines (LandBank) chairman and Secretary Arthur Tugade of the Department of Transportation (DOTr). In attendance to witness the proceedings were LandBank president Alex Buenventura and LTFRB Chairman Martin Delgra III.

“Do not worry. Trust us that what we are doing is for the development of our country, which is also for your welfare and for the upliftment of the socio-economic status of your respective families,” said LTFRB Board Member Aileen Lizada.

Based on the MOU, Landbank will put up a Php 1 billion credit facility to assist PUJ operators in the initial phase of the program, which is to replace 650 PUJs with new jeepneys with Euro-4 compliant engines or better and are priced between Php 1.4 million to Php 1.6 million per unit.

“There will be political resistance, no doubt, from those who do not wish change. We will have to conduct effective public diplomacy to raise the acceptance of this program. We must convince the jeepney drivers and operators that this is the way to go. They must understand the financing package will make the shift affordable. It will be an important contribution to fighting climate change. It will help decongest our exhausted roads. It will make commuting a more pleasant activity for our bedraggled commuters,” added Dominguez.

The three agencies tasked to handle the PUJ phaseout program are the Department of Finance, DOTr and Landbank.