WITH the jeepney modernization program underway, an Australian company is introducing solar-powered jeepneys to replace the old public utility vehicles (PUVs) in Cagayan de Oro City.

Rolando Laurel, Star 8 Green Technology Corporation managing director, said they are initially allocating over a thousand vehicles in the city, a number which could increase depending on the acceptability of the public.

A solar-powered jeepney is valued at P1.4 million for a 20-passenger unit and P1.6 million for the 25-passenger unit, he said.

Laurel, who was in the city last Friday, said there are many potential partners of the project in the city such as the transport groups.

The firm, however, is still ironing out the agreement with the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) and the local government, especially for the franchise.

"There is this program called the Land Transport Programs and Route Plan which the local government will initiate and will be approved and endorsed by the LTFRB para malaman na anong sasakyan or mga auto na ilalagay dito," he said.

For a growing city like Cagayan de Oro, Laurel said, the jeepneys they have are fit, especially on being able to save energy keeping the city free from pollution.

Laurel said the challenge now is the funding of the project.

"We will still have a lot of discussions with the LTFRB so that we can discuss it somehow. So iiwan namin ang sasakyan para ma testing and para malaman kung hindi ba ninyo magugustuhan, and kung ganyan, paano talaga tayo mag mo-move forward pero wWe don’t be are confident naman na ito ay talagang effective (We will leave the vehicle behind so it can be tested and so we will know how to proceed. But we are confident that it will be effective)," he said.

The same company has offered the Cagayan de Oro's First Taxi Driver's Allegiance (Cafitada) 500 units, for free.

Cafitada President Bernie Jamaca said the firm committed to give it to them for free, given they undergo the training and seminars which will be conducted by Star 8.

While Jamaca welcomed the firm's plan, transport group Starex-Piston's secretary-general Ringo Lago said the firm's offer is too good to be true.

"Kami dili mutuo nga ang maong offer walay epekto sa mga gagmay na operators ug drivers. Ang ilang ingon nga mas naay security sa drivers sa modernization program is panglinlang lang kini sa gobyerno aron makatuo ang mga drivers (We don’t believe the offer won’t have an effect on small operators and drivers. What they say about the jeepney modernization is just fooling the drivers)," he said.

Lago said what the country needs is not modernization but rehabilitation of the country’s transport system.

The jeepney phase out order was signed last June 19 under the Omnibus Franchising Guidelines by the Department of Transportation to modernize jeepneys and lessen accidents.

President Rodrigo Duterte on October said that all public utility jeepneys will be phased out next year and those who will defy this will be arrested and their units impounded.