top of page




It has become part of the daily routine of residents of Metro Manila and environs to get up early every time they have a scheduled appointment in another part of the metropolis. People who are to travel the metro and are coming from neighboring provinces to attend a specific commitment in Metro Manila usually provide a two- to three-hour leeway from the scheduled meetup to not be late. They have to consider the traffic situation awaiting them once they reach Epifanio de los Santos Avenue and other main thoroughfares connecting one city to another.

The practice of providing pataan (leeway) in the Philippine transport system has been fully normalized, and it is now ingrained among travellers specially in metropilitan areas. It is basically the practice of making provision for extra time, or flexibility built into a schedule to account for possible delays. It provides travellers peace of mind that they will arrive at their destination on time.

For example, if someone from Cubao, Quezon City wants to arrive at Sen. Gil Puyat Ave. in Makati City at exactly 10:00 a.m. on a weekday, traversing the 11-kilometer distance between the two points would take about an hour and a half using a private car. So leaving Cubao at 8:30 a.m. of on a good day is acceptable enough to reach Gil Puyat Ave. on time. However, with pataan, travellers would leave Cubao at 8 a.m., just to be sure.

The above is not the case for individuals who have no choice but to use public transportation. For them, leaving Quezon City at 8:00 a.m. for a 10 a.m. meeting in Makati is a crime. For most, an hour of pataan apart from the one hour and a half travel time would be safe enough to arrive on time as they tend to switch means of transportation. With this, commuters within and even outside the metro, requires a considerable amount of time and effort in order to deal with traffic and an inefficient mass transport system. With pataan, commuters can arrive on time, but the net effect is that they have less time to rest and waste more time.


As a way of coping with travel woes, commuters resort to using motorcycle ride-hailing services to avoid getting trapped in the jam-packed roads in the city. Motorcycles availed of through ride-hailing services are now tagged as the new Kings of the Road, replacing the traditional jeepneys, as the latter are often left stuck in traffic jams during rush hour. Unlike jeepneys, motorcycles can weave through tight spaces during gridlocks to shorten travel time.

A December 2023 survey released by private research and intelligence company Capstone-Intel Corporation showed that 37 percent of Filipinos use motorcycles as their preferred means of transportation; this was closely followed by jeepneys at 34 percent and tricycles at 32 percent. The survey was conducted at the height of the holiday rush, when standstill traffic was reported along major Metro Manila roads and commuters flocked to social media to vent their ire on the abhorrent traffic situation.

In a recent traffic index published by transportation data provider TomTom Traffic, every Filipino who had to cope with rush hour every working day wasted an estimated 117 hours, or nearly five days, per year due to traffic congestion in Metro Manila in 2023 as a result of the worsening traffic situation.

Unlike Singapore, which only reported 16 minutes and 50 seconds of travel time for 10 kilometers, Metro Manila has the ninth-slowest average travel time among the 387 metro areas examined in the survey, taking vehicles an average of 25 minutes and 20 seconds to go 10 kilometers.


Upon the release of the traffic index, the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) was quick to cast doubt on the TomTom data, citing questions on the company’s methodology. Referring to the traffic bureau data, acting chairperson Romando Artes noted that in 2021, there were a total of 3.2 million to 3.6 million vehicles that travelled around Metro Manila daily. Artes added that there is vehicle congestion in the metropolis. Nearly 400,000 vehicles use EDSA every day, despite its limited capacity of 300,000 vehicles.

And the government’s answer? Modernization of old jeepneys.

Instead of addressing the roots of the woes that come with the inefficient transport system, particularly the dreadful transportation infrastructure of the country, authorities have focused on replacing traditional jeepneys with modernized and electric-powered ones that financially burden ordinary drivers and operators who barely make ends meet.


The jeepney modernization program stipulates that antiquated jeepneys be replaced with more contemporary, sustainable vehicles that adhere to safety and performance guidelines established by the Bureau of Philippine Standards and the Department of Transportation (DOTr). Operators are required by law to consolidate into cooperatives that each run at least 15 jeepneys.

The cost of a modern jeepney can range from Php1.6 million to Php3 million for a fully electrified vehicle and operators must also have a terminal or a parking area of their own. Accordingly, in order to purchase a unit, a jeepney driver or operator would need to earn between Php6,000 and Php7,000 each day.

A policy brief by the University of the Philippines Center for Integrative and Development Studies revealed that an ordinary jeepney operator, on average, earns Php2,000 to Php3,000 daily gross income. However, the expenses, including fuel and maintenance, eat up most of that income.

In some reports, transport group members in Metro Manila decried taking home only Php300 to Php400 daily income to their families—far from the family living wage of around Php1,100 for a family of five.

The brief likewise stated that the cost of a modern jeepney is “well beyond” the price of a traditional jeepney, which ranges from Php200,000 to Php600,000. That said, getting a unit of a modernized jeepney exceeds the financial capacity of jeepney drivers and operators.

Despite offering financial aid to those who will be affected by the modernization program, drivers and operators who refused to consolidate protested the said requirement and instead called for a “progressive public mass transport system.”

According to transport group PISTON (Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Operator Nationwide), the government’s frantic efforts to offer livelihood programs to impacted transport workers simply serves to highlight its awareness of the significant job losses the jeepney modernization program is expected to cause.

The PUV Modernization Program (PUVMP) was launched in 2017, with the DOTr as lead agency. The program seeks to provide commuters a safe, convenient, and reliable public transport system. Department Order No. 2017-011, or the Omnibus Guidelines on the Planning and Identification of Public Road Transportation Services and Franchise Issuance, spelled out the core policy of the program.

It was former President Rodrigo Duterte who brought the proposed PUV modernization out of the pipeline, but the late former President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III had already greenlit billions worth of projects aimed at improving the ailing transport infrastructure of the country during his term. The Duterte-led program has since been backed by various transport groups, with the Liga ng Transportasyon at Operators sa Pilipinas saying the modernization plan of the national government is the “solution to the heavy traffic” in the country.

Years have already passed, and yet the situation of the public remains the same: rushing the streets to catch the last trip and crowding the trains or jeepneys during peak hours as riding taxis or cars available through ride-hailing apps is too expensive for minimum-wage employees.


Commuters slam the program as the modern jeepneys’ only difference from the traditional jeepneys is that these are air-conditioned and there remains the primary concern on prolonged travel time due to poor traffic management.

According to Rep. Bonifacio Bosita of 1-Rider Partylist, a modern jeepney may require a minimum charge of Php30 to Php40 for each passenger in order for a cooperative to repay its vehicle loan. This reveals a knock-on effect of the program on the commuters: improved commuter experience once modern jeepneys are fully operational would mean at least a trebling of their expenses for their daily fare.

Additionally, a commuter group also warned of a Php50 fare hike for modern jeepneys once the program is fully implemented. The DOTr belied this, saying the price of fuel is the main factor taken into account when adjusting public transportation fares. The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) likewise assured the public that modern jeepney fares won’t spike at Php50 per ride. Presently, the minimum fare is Php13 for traditional jeepneys and Php15 for modern jeepneys.

Not withstanding the looming economic implications of the modernization program both on the end of the commuters and drivers and operators, over 7 out of 10 Filipinos, according to Capstone-Intel Corporation, have expressed their support for allowed unconsolidated jeepneys to operate until January 31, 2024, after which they could no longer traverse the streets. UV Express units and jeepneys were expected to cease operations on over 500 routes in the National Capital Region, resulting in a “public transport disaster” for the metropolis. Approximately 140,000 drivers and 60,000 small operators stood to lose their jobs as a result of the PUV modernization program, according to estimates. This prompted various opposition groups, particularly the April 30 to give more time for drivers and operators to consolidate. According to authorities, the government would help anyone who will lose their jobs as a result of the modernization program. Those opposed to the PUVMP are saying that the government is just making the emotional strain on the average driver unbearable by moving the program’s deadline now and modernizing PUVs. However, enlightened information dissemination needs to be done in order to ensure that it would indeed enhance the faltering transportation system since 24 percent of the respondents remain neutral. But this was not the case on social media and on the streets. Despite the robust support, several calls to halt the modernization program have muffled authorities, causing a spate of extensions of the program’s implementation.


Originally, the last deadline for jeepney drivers and operators to consolidate was set for December 31, 2023. But officials transport union PISTON, to hold a string of protests to call on the national government to terminate its PUV modernization program, adding that there are far more important issues concerning the economy and human rights, among others, that need to be resolved, rather than pulling out the historic jeepneys from the country’s streets.

With less than a week leading to the January 31 deadline, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. extended the deadline to again. To them, this is simply a stopgap measure, not enough to address the flawed public transportation system that is affecting ordinary citizens. The numerous deadline extensions, they say, is another pataan game officials are playing.

The practice of pataan has been seen as proof of the Filipinos’ resilience and ability to adjust to difficult sistuations, such as the public transportation system that has burdened themfor decades. This is also a weapon used by the national government to prolong the anxiety of commuters on one side and drivers and operators on the other, groups that are most likely to be affected by the modernization program.


If only lawmakers took the same means of transportation ordinary commuters take every day, they would know how lagging the Philippines is compared to neighboring countries and territories, particularly Hong Kong, in terms of transportation. For years, several think tanks and pollsters have reported that Hong Kong is consistently one of the world’s top cities for public transport. In addition to being reasonably priced, Hong Kong’s transportation system is commended for having a high station density and strong railroad infrastructure.

Unlike the Philippines, where Filipinos have to haggle for fare rates with habal-habal (hired motorcycle) drivers just to get home when ride-hailing apps become flooded with booking requests during rush hour, Hong Kong’s rail lines have been regarded as so “reliable” that most commuters use them daily.

According to AHK Hong Kong, 90 percent of passenger movements occur on Hong Kong’s public transportation every day since residents are highly encouraged to use public transport following the increasing number of private cars alongside declining parking spots in the area. Currently, the estimated average price of a private parking space in Hong Kong is HK$2 million or approximately Php14.3 million– leaving the residents to maximize its public transport system.

The latest data released by AHK Hong Kong shows that the most frequent public transportation options are railways (3.58 million daily trips), buses (3.04 million), mini-busses (1.29 million), taxis (660,000), and ferries (86,000). In terms of daily passengers carried, the MTR Corporation, a state-owned public transport operator and property developer in Hong Kong, is the largest public transport operator (3.47 million), preceding Kowloon Motor Bus (2.12 million) and the Green Minibus fleet (1.11 million).


Even with the increasing number of commuters across Hong Kong, the public transportation system has been able to cope. Over 95 percent of Hong Kong commuters use “Octopus cards” for seamless travel across different transport options. While the Philippines has an electronic card similar to that of Hong Kong, the use of Metro Manila’s beep card remains limited to trains and some buses in select locations — making it hard for Filipino commuters who have to switch means of transportation to get to their destination.

The Hong Kong Transportation Department underscored the significance of continuously expanding its smart transportation system and integrating cross-modal public transport services for swift traffic management. The Innovation and Technology Bureau released an updated Smart City Blueprint for Hong Kong 2.0 in December 2020 which aims to create a globally recognized “Smart Hong Kong” distinguished by a robust economy and excellent standard of living. The blueprint includes more than 130 projects and strategies. One of the six pillars of said blueprint is smart mobility, with the main objective of rolling out an automated transportation and traffic management framework leveraging technology and smart data.

The AHK Hong Kong data report says that among the planned projects slated under the blueprint were free-flow tolling at all government-owned tunnels by 2024; real-time adaptive traffic signal systems for cars and pedestrians; an arrival information system for green minibuses by 2022; and the testing and deployment of autonomous vehicles in multiple city locations.

It added that the HK$1 billion Smart Traffic Fund, which was initially proposed in the 2019 Policy Address and inaugurated in the fiscal year 2020–2021, is one of the new features of the updated blueprint. The fund is managed by the Hong Kong Productivity Council and is aimed at supporting research and technology applications to improve traffic efficiency and safety in Hong Kong.

“The Blueprint 2.0 also envisions the development of a Traffic Data Analytics System to enhance traffic management capabilities, reduce road congestion, and better protect road users. However, a timeline for implementation has not yet been confirmed,” the report noted.


The public’s confidence in the country’s transport system has to be religiously studied, along with the increasing competition between a number of ride-hailing services and less accessible means of public transportation. By now, the authorities must be aware of why several commuters tend to take the dangerous roads by riding motorcycles or for those who have the means, using private cars rather than taking public transport.

The anxiety of waking up early just to travel for hours, waiting for an accessible means of transportation because rush hours peaked, and once again being anxious if you will make it home safely at the end of the day add up to the decreasing collective faith in the efficiency of the PUV modernization program.

*Jericho Zafra is Chief Content Specialist at Capstone-Intel Corporation. He is currently pursuing his specialization in News Journalism at The London School of Journalism in the United Kingdom.

bottom of page