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Sunday, September 15, 2019

PUJ operators given 3-year window to modernize fleet

TRANSPORT group Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide has been given some breathing room four days after it staged a nationwide strike to protest the government’s public utility vehicle (PUV) modernization program that seeks to phase out jeepneys that are 15 years old and older.

Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) 7 Director Ahmed Cuizon said jeepney operators and drivers have from this year to 2020 to modernize their fleet, based on the Omnibus Franchise Guidelines issued by Department of Transport (DOTr) Secretary Arthur Tugade.

That means those driving dilapidated passenger jeepneys can still ply the streets during this period.

By Jan. 1, 2021, though, all jeepney units must be brand new, Cuizon said. “By Jan. 1, 2021, we will not anymore renew all old units,” he said.

In June 2017, LTFRB Chairman Martin Delgra said the program has a “three -year transition period” where the ban on old jeepneys will not be strictly implemented. The period will also serve as the time for franchisers to form cooperatives and corporations that will make it easier for them to take out a loan to afford the new jeepneys.

Department of Finance Undersecretary Karl Kendrick Chua had said they would prioritize jeepney drivers who operate under government-recognized cooperatives. That way they could easily be reached if ever they have trouble with payment. It’s also an assurance that government would be paid back, Chua added.

The PUV modernization program is not the only transport-related issue that has been hogging local headlines.

Members of the Regional Development Council (RDC) 7 who belong to the private sector have put their foot down on several infrastructure projects, earning criticisms from the public sector.

The former has the support of the Cebu Business Club. Its president Dondi Joseph yesterday said the RDC 7 is on right track to question the U.N. Ave. underpass project in Mandaue City because it will add to the P1.1-billion daily economic losses due to traffic.

Joseph, who is also executive committee chairman of the Metro Cebu Development Coordinating Board (MCDCB), said the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) 7 should first widen the alternate road from Plaridel St. in Mandaue City to Cansaga in Consolacion before working on the underpass to avoid closing the area.

Joseph said the American Chamber (Amcham) is concerned about the worsening traffic situation in Metro Cebu.

“For the last 20 years, it’s getting worse, as if nothing happens. So they asked if Mega Cebu of the MCDCB can make a representation on the ongoing traffic and transport study, which is sponsored by Jica (Japan International Cooperation Agency)” Joseph said.

He said that Jica put together a team of international traffic experts with local counterparts like Rene Mercado and Engineer Lynn Madrona.

“Essentially, it is a group of serious expert traffic scientists who are now in the middle of their transport and traffic study. It will be completed within this year. Ancham wanted updates,” Joseph said.

Joseph said the RDC 7 is not stopping projects but it is proposing alternatives, similar to what Mega Cebu has been proposing in the last three to four years. But despite that these are Jica-recommended projects and expert-recommended solutions, DPWH 7 and some politicians prefer to implement flyovers and underpasses, he said.

He said that if you look at the basis of the Jica study, which shows that a tri-level flyover is required, there are 10 projects there, not just one, which are less expensive. But the DPWH 7 just picked underpass.

“So, why are we rushing into the underpass?” Joseph asked.

Dr. Tetsuji Matsujima of Jica said the Master Plan Study and Institutional Development and Urban Transport System in Metro Cebu will be completed this year.

Speaking before the Amcham Forum at Radissun Blu Hotel, Matsujima said they will first meet with mayors of local government units and government agencies in July or August before its final approval.

The DOTr is the lead government study in this transport master plan study.

Matsujima said that the main purpose of the master plan is to strengthen the capacity of the LGUs. He said the DOTr has instructed LGUs to formulate a route plan with the former providing technical assistance.

Three LGUs in Metro Cebu have been organized as a pilot area to come up and implement the plan.
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