The Senate Committee on Public Services on Thursday, March 2 urged the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and the Land Transportation and Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) to first address the issues hounding the implementation of the government’s jeepney modernization program.
Sen. Grace Poe calls for measures to address the concerns of public utility vehicle (PUV) operators and drivers as the government goes full steam ahead with its modernization program during the Senate Committee on Public Services’ hearing on Thursday, March 2, 2023. (Senate PRIB Photo)
During the public hearing, Sen. Grace Poe said it is clear that despite the government’s insistence to pursue the Public Utility Vehicles (PUV) Modernization Program, many of the stakeholders in the jeepney industry, particularly drivers and operators, are not prepared to comply.
Earlier, the Senate adopted Resolution No. 44 strongly urging the LTRFB to defer its June 30 phaseout of traditional jeepneys that would fail to comply with its consolidation requirement. In response, the LTFRB moved the deadline to Dec. 31, 2023.
The Poe-led committee discussed Senate Bill No. 105 which calls for a “just and humane” PUV Modernization Program, including transitory assistance and services rendered to operators, drivers and other stakeholders.
“You don’t need rocket science to know that a jeepney driver who earns about P750 a day cannot afford to buy a vehicle worth P2.3 million,” Poe said as she pitched for increased subsidies for the affected PUV operators and drivers.
“Clearly, there are people still in the (transportation) agencies who have been pushing for something that is not working,” she said.
Poe scored the LTFRB for the apparently forcing a raw implementation of the transport modernization program or the phaseout of the traditional jeepney, even though there is no comprehensive plan for route rationalization, apart from the fact that the drivers, who earn only P600 to P750 per day, cannot afford it.
Sen. Nancy Binay also called out transportation officials for seemingly beating around the bush about stopping the operations of traditional and dilapidated jeepneys.
“You are trying to sweet-talk us that ‘It’s not a phaseout but a consolidation.’ But the mere fact that if they won’t be able to comply with the consolidation, technically, you are phasing them out,” Binay pointed out.
When asked by Binay if the DOTr has done sufficient studies first before rolling out the program, DOTr Usec. Mark Steven Pastor admitted that the PUV modernization program is still rife with uncertainties.
Pastor said that the DOTr commissioned a study in 2017 that became the basis of Administrative Order 2017-11. But the PUV Modernization Program is facing a lot of problems as most transport cooperatives are having difficulty adopting to the design and other requirements for the modernization.
“We also recognise that the transport cooperatives are also facing difficulty, with the cost of the design that was done involving several entities and agencies po that are beyond the mandate of DOTr. So yun po yung nakikita namin (So that is one of the things we are looking at),” Pastor said.
He also pointed out some cannot also comply with the Local Public Transport Route Plan or LPTRP: “For it to be effective, there should be an ordinance approving the same.. so those things we could not really control.” “What we can do is we send people on the ground to help the province or city or municipality to come up with a road plan,” he said.
He also agreed with Sen. Risa Hontiveros that the implementation of the program can be “very political” as some local governmetn units (LGUs) are not really interested to push for it “because there are interests that might be involved.”
To which Poe responded: “Ayusin nyo muna yung mga problema ninyo, yung coordination ninyo with the LGU, lahat yan, bago kayo mag bigay ng deadline (Fix your problems first, your coordination with the LGU, all of that, before you give a deadline)!”
“Para sa akin dapat open-ended. Wag nyo munang bigyan ng deadline (For me, the deadline should be open-ended. Don’t give a deadline),” he said.
“Di pa talaga kayo ready by December,” said Poe, who chairs the Senate public services committee.
Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva, on the other hand, clarified he is not against the PUV Modernization Program, to promote a safer public transport systems that are better for the environment.
However, Villanueva said the government should take into consideration the interest of PUV owners, operators and drivers noting that the public transport sector “is already going through a difficult time because of the rising fuel prices.”
Villanueva said it is imperative to thoroughly dissect whether the program would work or its implementation would be “too burdensome” on the transportation sector and the commuters.
“We are not against PUV modernization. It cannot be avoided but it cannot be rushed or forced,” he said.
“Our question is: Is there a ‘mafia’ that is pushing this even though it is obvious that our countrymen are complaining?” the majority leader asked.