ONCE it gets the approved travel line from the Cebu City Government, an initial 22 modern public utility vehicles (PUV) will start operating in the city next week.

The operation of the BEEPositive PUVs in Cebu City is in support of the National Government's public utility vehicle modernization program.

Lawyer Vigor Mendoza, BEEPositive chairman, said the company has already secured all the necessary permits from the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) 7 and only needs the travel line to officially start operating.

The travel line, which will be identified by the City Transportation Office, determines the routes and designated drop-off and pick-up points, among others, for the PUV.

“It will be the LTFRB that will work on the route description, of course, subject to local government confirmation. We are coordinating with the local government. This is the first of its kind. We chose Cebu City because aside from being a major city in the Philippines, we want to help address the concerns of the Cebuano riding public,” Mendoza said.

“Mas maganda ang kinikita dito, walang masyadong maintenance pa. Mas marami ang pasahero, mas marami ang kikitain. Yung mga driver dito, hindi na boundary system. Ililipat natin to fixed income together with complete government benefits (The income here is better, plus there will be minimal maintenance. More passengers mean more income. The drivers here, they won't depend on the boundary system anymore. We will change this to fixed income together with complete government benefits,” he said.

The fare collection is automated and passengers will just have to swipe their fare cards to the point of sale terminals inside the vehicles.

The cards are re-loadable and will be made available soon in established retail stores.

In the meantime, payment of fares will have to be done in cash since they are still looking for suppliers for the fare cards.

The air-conditioned vehicles, which take form in mini coasters, have a seating capacity of 24 and can also accommodate 10 standing passengers.

Mendoza said a total of 40 PUVs are expected to operate in Cebu City, but they will have to start with the first 22 since the remaining 18 have yet to arrive after the delivery was hampered by tropical depression Samuel.

It is also equipped with a 72-hour functional dash camera, speed limiter device, global positioning system, and grants free WiFi access to passengers aboard. It also uses the same engine-type of that of PUVs in Europe.

Once operational, Mendoza said the first 40 buses will ply routes surrounding business centers.

“This is not to compete yet with other public utility jeepneys (PUJ). Gusto lang naming ipasok to para makita ng mga PUJ na may alternatibo. Gusto natin makita ito ng mga PUJ operators na naghihirap na dahil sa kalumaan ng sasakyan na makapagbago ng sasakyan (We just want to provide an alternative to PUJ. We want PIJ operators to see this especially those suffering from having old vehicles,” he added.

Mendoza said BEEPositive will be operated by Persano Corp., a newly formed transport company chaired by Ryan Benjamin Yu, who is the former chairman of the Cebu Integrated Transport Service Cooperative (Citrasco).

The modern PUVs are also expected to generate employment. Mendoza said they will need mechanics to train and around 100 drivers since they intend to add more units by the end of the year.

BEEPositive is funded by a loan from the Land Bank of the Philippines.

In 2017, Land Bank opened up a P1 billion credit facility for a program that will help driver-operators replace PUJs that are 15 years old and above with modern public transport.

In a separate interview, Councilor Eugenio Gabuya Jr. said that while the City Government has yet to identify the travel line for BEEPositive, he hopes it will help address concerns of the riding public.

“It is safer and more convenient for commuters. Ang travel line proposal siguro mo-agi pa sa (will still pass through the) City Council, but as far as franchise is concerned, there is already an approval from the LTFRB,” he continued.

Meanwhile, Jericho Mari Jumapao, the new chairman of Citrasco, said that they are assisting Persano in fast-tracking its operation in Cebu City since the latter is based in Quezon City.

But LTFRB 7 Assistant Director Reynaldo Elnar said the central office has yet to approve Citrasco's petition to collect a P15 fare for the modern PUV unit.

However, it may start operating if the company uses the minimum fare rate for ordinary PUJs at P6.50.

Elnar said the modern PUVs will ply two newly opened routes.

The first route will depart from Cebu City Hall and will pass along Robinsons Galleria to Cebu Business Park then to Asiatown in IT Park, and vice versa.

The second route, on the other hand, will depart from Paseo Arcenas in Barangay Banawa and will pass through Happy Valley straight to B. Rodriguez St., Osmeña Blvd., Ramos St., D. Jakosalem St., Gorordo Ave., Ayala Center Cebu then to Panagdait, vice versa.

Jumapao said the routes were chosen since these are where many Business Process Outsourcing companies are located. (With SCG of Superbalita Cebu)