And so it seems the government has once again given in to the demands of the operators and drivers who failed or refused to comply with the requirement to consolidate their franchise under the Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP).
Earlier this week it announced that it would extend the deadline to April 30, 2024.
Initially it was set on Dec. 31, 2023 before giving those plying routes without cooperatives an extra month to operate.
I can understand the dismay of those who religiously followed the law. Those who took out loans in the millions to purchase modern units that pass new standards to address pollution and passenger comfort, among other things.
Because when the government came up with the PUVMP, I don’t think it set out to ruin the livelihoods of thousands of public utility operators and drivers nationwide.
It was looking out after the welfare of the riding public.
Okay. I can see some eyes rolling. Maybe in an ideal world that would be the case, but as a hopeless optimist, I would like to give our public officials the benefit of the doubt.
After all, what is the real aim of the modernization program?
Isn’t it “to replace traditional jeepneys with safer, more efficient and eco-friendly vehicles?”
But those who oppose it claim that the government is out to get them.
First, it’s not like Malacañang sprung a surprise on them. They’ve had more than five years to prepare.
Second, the government has gone out of its way to help them acquire modern units like offering a financing package through a government bank as well as generous subsidies.
Albeit after finding out the cost of a modern unit gave me pause.
According to Brian James Lu, president of the National Economic Protectionism Association and chairman of the Foundation for National Development, it sells for between P2.4 million and P2.8 million each.
Mind you, that is a lot of money that your average driver or single operator can well afford.
Yes, they can take out a loan from a government bank but they still have to pay it back. And mind you, there is no guarantee they can recoup the investment.
Then Lu said Francisco Motors, a Filipino jeepney manufacturer, offered to sell its own fully electric and modern jeepney that retains the look of the iconic traditional jeepney for P985,000 each for the first 1,000 units back at the end of 2023.
But get this, the government clarified that it is not telling operators and drivers to purchase the more expensive units, specifically vehicles from China, but to just acquire units that follow the guidelines.
Under this setup, Francisco Motors or any other local jeepney manufacturer still has a chance to capture a big slice of the market if indeed its own version actually exists and is ready to hit the road.
And after checking the internet, it does.
So that’s actually a minus for transport groups that continue to slam the government for being anti-poor.
I mean, what other excuse can they give?
There might come a time when the dissenting voice becomes the minority and yet the public will continue to listen to members of that sector because they are the oppressed, they are the disenfranchised, they are the marginalized.
They are banking on their financial condition to blatantly ignore or break the law, while others are bending over backwards to comply.
Where is justice in that?
But the bigger question is, what will happen after April 30?