JEEPNEY manufacturers said the government needs to halt imports of completely built-up modernized jeepney units for the Public Utility Vehicles Modernization Program (PUVMP).

“The direct import of the completely built units should be stopped. That’s what’s killing our industry and we’ll never have economies of scale if we allow that to continue,” Francisco Motors owner and Chief Executive Officer Elmer Francisco said in an online roundtable.

Mr. Francisco offered an arrangement involving imported drivetrains for local assembly, which he said will generate employment for Filipino workers.

Meanwhile, Sarao Motors, Inc. Operations Supervisor Leonard John Sarao said his small company needs to rely on foreign investors to upgrade its technology.

“He said the typical arrangement offered by potential partners manufacturing at scale is to send in a unit to carry the local partner’s brand, which does not allow for job generation,” Mr. Sarao said.

Mr. Sarao said his company has had to downsize due to the COVID-19 pandemic and lack of demand for legacy jeepneys.

Its turnover rate is now longer, with a timeline of three to five months to manufacture a single unit.

Mr. Francisco, citing his conversations with diesel engine supplier Isuzu Philippines, noted that the cost of a jeepney engine has risen to P1.4 million from P400,000 prior to the implementation of the PUVMP.

He voiced suspicions that international manufacturers may be dumping obsolete engine technology in the Philippines.

“Euro-4 compliant diesel is obsolete in other countries. When you go to China, they are already in Euro 6 and 7; why are they dumping their garbage in the Philippines?” he said.

“If your purpose is to mitigate climate change; you are not changing anything; it is still a pollutant,” according to Mr. Francisco, who is also a physicist.

Francisco Motors is instead touting a full-electric powertrain powered by a Hydrogen Fuel Cell that can run on a 20% slope with a 30-person capacity.

“We will mass-produce even the Hydrogen fuel cells in Camarines Norte and we will see it manufactured by the end of the year or early 2025,” he said.

Department of Transportation Urban Planner Sharmaine Enales said the Euro 4-engine requirement is only a minimum standard according to the Omnibus Franchising Guidelines of the Department Order 2023-022.

Ms. Enales said there are currently 66 PUV models that have certificates of compliance and 39 of these are considered “locally assembled” by the standards of the Department of Trade and Industry.

Locally assembled sets a threshold of 25% of in-country final assembly for various components like the chassis.

Ms. Enales also said four modern PUV models have acquired certificates of compliance that are traditional-looking and compliant in terms of dimensions with the Philippine National Standard. — Aubrey Rose A. Inosante