The government must carefully study its public utility vehicle (PUV) modernization program so that no transport workers will lose their jobs amid its implementation, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said Wednesday.
Mr. Marcos said the transport workers—mostly jeepney and UV Express drivers and operators—fear they might not be able to secure a loan to buy a new vehicle that meets the government’s prescribed modernization guidelines as it tries to phase out PUVs 15 years and older in favor of less-polluting electric vehicles.
The President made the remarks after the leaders of transport groups Manibela and PISTON met with Presidential Communications Office Secretary Cheloy Garafil and Office of the Executive Secretary Undersecretary Roy Cervantes in Malacanang on Tuesday night, leading to the end of what would have been a weeklong PUV strike in just two days.
Mr. Marcos thanked members of Manibela and PISTON, headed by Mar Valbuena and Mody Floranda, respectively, for heeding the government’s call to sit down and discuss their concerns regarding the implementation of the Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP).
The Department of Transportation (DOTr) on Wednesday also said it will review the 2017 Omnibus Franchising Guidelines amid issues raised by the transportation sector.
“That’s why I was saying dialogue is important, because we can talk this over,” Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista said during the Kapihan sa Manila Bay Forum.
“I am very thankful to them that they felt the situation, they have made their point… very clearly that it needs to be studied,” the President said.
“This is what I mentioned before, to review the system of changing the jeepneys, buses, and other forms of transport (for public) areas,” he added.
Leaders from both houses of Congress and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) praised the decision of the transport groups to end their “tigil pasada,” which they claimed paralyzed up to 90 percent of PUV operations in Metro Manila and several provinces.
The President said the government has been thoroughly studying and tweaking its systems in inspecting PUVs during the extension period of consolidation of transport groups under the PUVMP.
Under the modernization scheme, jeepney operators are enjoined to join cooperatives or corporations, which will borrow money from banks to buy modern jeepneys or mini-buses.
The LTFRB earlier announced that traditional jeepneys and UV express units only had until June 30 to join cooperatives or corporations to modernize, a deadline that has since been extended to Dec. 31.
Mr. Marcos said the deadline set by the LTRFB “is enough to do all the work needed for the modernization program.”
Bautista noted that the Omnibus Franchising Guidelines implemented by the LTFRB – an agency under the Department of Transportation – is already six years old, “so there’s really a need to review it.”
“We’re asking for the stakeholders to get in touch with us so we can discuss all its related issues,” he added.
Bautista also stressed that the DoTr never recommended the immediate phaseout of traditional jeepneys in the country.
“There are many components in the PUV Modernization Program. The phaseout is one of the last. What we meant by phaseout is we will not allow the use of not road-worthy (PUVs). As long as the units are road-worthy and comply with the Philippine National Standards, we will allow the use of these units,” he added.
Bautista added that Manibela and Piston agreed to support the modernization program but in phases.
“The deadline that was set by the LTFRB was for operators to consolidate as a cooperative or as a corporation,” he added.
Sen. Grace Poe, the chairperson of the Senate committee on public services, acknowledged the immediate response of the Executive branch to the sentiments of the transport sector on the PUV Modernization Plan, which jeepney drivers and operators considered burdensome.
“We hope that an extensive consultation will result in a productive dialogue from the side of the government, drivers, and the commuting public,” she said.
Poe pointed out that the Palace action “only shows that is ready to talk and help our drivers and operators in this transition.”
“We are hoping that the DoTr and LTRFB will make this an opportunity to improve the program now that the transport groups are ready to join discussions,” she said. “Like what we promised when they went to the Senate, we guarantee a humane transition to PUV modernization.”
In the House of Representatives, Rep. Claudine Diana Bautista-Lim of DUMPER PTDA party-list group said: “We welcome their decision not to push through with the weeklong nationwide transport strike. We believe that this government is committed to the welfare of the transport sector.”
Lim, the vice chairperson of the House Committee on Transportation, echoed the commitment of the President to the transport sector that there will be no phaseout of traditional jeepneys.
She said the statements of Valbuena and Floranda affirm the Marcos administration’s commitment to be sensitive to the plight of the transport sector.
“We are after the welfare not only of operators and drivers of PUVs but the riding public as well. Contrary to misinformation, ‘consolidation’ does not equate to phasing out traditional jeepneys,” Lim stressed.
DUMPER PTDA (Drivers United for Mass Progress and Equal Rights-Philippine Taxi Drivers Association) has worked for the extension of the consolidation deadline five times since 2020, according to Lim.
LTFRB Chairman Teofilo Guadiz III cited the transport leaders “for listening to the wisdom of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.” to sit down and discuss how to improve the tenets of Department Order 2017-011 or the Omnibus Franchising Guidelines, and how to make the PUVMP “more responsive and inclusive to the needs of drivers and operators, the lifeblood of the public transportation industry.”
“We have never wavered in asking our friends from MANIBELA and PISTON to sit down with us, to thresh out their concerns about the PUVMP and the modernization of the public transportation industry. We are glad they listened to our President,” he said.
Guadiz said the riding public would ultimately benefit from a modernized, progressive, efficient, comfortable, and safe commuting experience.
He encouraged other transport leaders to come forward and seek a dialogue with government officials to help improve the modernization program “that would be acceptable to all.”
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