By Alexandria Dennise San Juan, October 11 2018; Manila Bulletin

Image Credit to PCOO (As cited from Manila Bulletin)

Despite criticisms and reports of its postponement, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) maintained that the modernization program for public utility vehicles will continue to push through “with no delays.”

“We shall continue with the PUV Modernization Program. For the sake of this country, let us have political will. No delays, no postponement, let us get this done,” Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade said.

Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade (PCOO/Manila Bulletin)

Tugade made the statement following reports that the modernization program, which was launched last year, will be postponed or delayed.

Contrary to previous reports that the government is not yet ready to carry out the program, the transportation chief said they are all set to implement it.

“Handa po kaming ipatupad ito. Hindi naman po siguro kami kukuha ng bato na ipupukpok sa sarili namin. Kung dati, hanggang plano lang, ibahin ninyo po kami,” Secretary Tugade added.

Tugade’s statement was also supported by LTFRB Chairman Atty. Martin Delgra III who assured the transportation department that the implementation of the modernization of land-based public transport has started and will continue.

He added that he is also “committed to succeed where so many others have failed before.”

“Challenge accepted. I will face it with courage. No doubt, it’s hard. There are many controversies and doubts. But I think it will be beneficial to many,” Delgra said in a mix of Filipino and English.

Delgra added that some sectors may not see the urgent need in the PUV modernization program, but there is no way for it to stop no matter what the challenges are.

“It is natural for people to fight change, but they will see the full benefits and beauty soon enough,” he said.

Senate hearing on PUVMP

In the recent hearing of the Senate committee on public services on the PUV modernization program, Senator Grace Poe said that the government is not yet prepared to phase out PUVs that are noncompliant to their modernization requirements, as their requirements itself are vague.

Poe also emphasized that operators and drivers are still lost on how to avail of the government’s loan program so they could buy eco-friendly jeepney units worth P1.8 million at most.

The committee chair added that the decision to delay the phaseout of old PUJs came from Delgra.

According to Poe, Delgra admitted during the hearing that the government is not ready for the phaseout.

“So in principle, he said they cannot implement a total phaseout in March,” she said.

However, DOTr Assistant Secretary for Road Transport Mark De Leon clarified that transport officials did not say that the implementation will be postponed or delayed, but committed to review the timeline that says franchises must be consolidated by March 2019.

“The March 2019 is a timeline, not a deadline, bearing in mind that the transition period is until June 2020 — three years after the launching of the PUVMP and the signing of the Omnibus Franchising Guidelines (OFG),” he said.

“Units are really not going to be replaced and franchises are not going to be canceled. What we are talking about here is the consolidation of the units that we are currently doing.”

Under LTFRB’s Memorandum Circular 2018-008, individual operators are encouraged to consolidate to participate in the modernization program.

The current franchises of those who are unable or unwilling to participate in the PUVMP after March 2019 will remain valid during the transition period, but they may continue to use their existing units until the end of the transition, subject to the provisions of their current franchises.

As of now, the DOTr confirmed that there are a total of 484 cooperatives that have been formed to operate modern jeepneys, wheren 131 were already issued franchises covering 3,273 authorized units.

Seeking support

Meanwhile, the transportation chief also urged various government officials and transport groups leaders to start helping and supporting the modernization program.

“We have taken the initial bold step towards progress, and we need leaders who can tell us where else we can do better, not tell us why it cannot be done. Commuters are already waiting for so long, yet we are still full of excuses until now,” he stated.

Tugade also warned again transport groups who continue to threaten the government of staging a nationwide transport strike to protest on rising fuel prices.

DOTr and LTFRB maintained that any strike or attempt that will burden the riding public will not be tolerated as it is a violation and an abandonment of their state-given privilege to hold franchises.

The transportation agencies told groups to instead talk to them and assured that their doors for dialogue will remain open and all stakeholders will continue to be engaged.