SEVERAL Cebu-based transport cooperatives are calling on all transport stakeholders to unite in supporting the Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP) amid the ongoing efforts of various groups to halt its implementation.
In a press conference on Friday, Jan. 19, 2024, Ellen Maghanoy, chairperson of the Federation of Cebu Transport Cooperatives (FCTC), said the PUVMP must push through without delay because its benefits outweigh the disadvantages in providing effective mass transportation to the riding public.
The FCTC has 11 transport cooperatives as members.
Maghanoy said traditional public utility jeepneys (TPUJs) that are still unconsolidated by Jan. 31 must cease operations, while the National Government focuses on the full implementation of the program.
“Dapat tumanon na gyud nato ang PUVMP nga wala nay atrasay. Kay ngano man? If ang gobyerno man gud mag-atras abante sa atong PUVMP, kami sad nga naningkamot nga mapatuman kini, kung atong gobyerno kay magluya, naa usab tendency nga kaming naa sa PUVMP kay maluya sad,” she said.
(We must now implement the PUVMP without backing out. Why? If the government is undecided on the implementation, there is a tendency for the support of those who complied with the program to become feeble.)
Maghanoy, chairperson of the El Pardo Transport Cooperative, said it’s time for the National Government to listen to the “majority” in the transportation sector, adding that there are more cooperatives than unconsolidated jeepney operators and drivers.
Franchise consolidation refers to individual operators surrendering their franchises into a single corporation or cooperation that operates on a single route.
She said around 81 percent have already consolidated in Central Visayas. The bulk of the remaining 19 percent are TPUJs with unconfirmed franchise or are no longer in operation, she said.
Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) 7 Director Eduardo Montealto Jr., in a text message to SunStar Cebu on Friday, said the number of consolidated operators has gone up to 83 percent, adding that they still have to sort out how many of the remaining unconsolidated are operating.
“For now, we can estimate at least 300 units of TPUJs (in operation),” he said.
The unconsolidated will be issued summon/show cause orders to explain why they weren’t able to consolidate given several deadline extensions.
It was also announced that unconsolidated PUVs will be tagged as “colorum” starting Feb. 1.
Meanwhile, Maghanoy said that another setback to the PUVMP would have a detrimental effect on cooperatives, pointing out that “backing out” is no longer an option.
She said the continued presence of TPUJs is unfair to those who complied with the program.
She said cooperatives have to pay the monthly amortization on the loans they took out from the banks to purchase modern jeepneys.
She assured affected drivers and operators that they will not lose their earnings as cooperatives are willing to accept their applications, considering that cooperatives require additional drivers, mechanics and other personnel to help them with fleet management.
Maghanoy said cooperatives’ fleets of modern PUVs are on standby to replace unconsolidated TPUJs on specific routes whose franchises will expire after the Jan. 31 deadline.
“Daghan namo nga kaubanan nga coop kay daghan usab sila og mga modern jeep nga wala naka-dagan karon. Ngano man? Ni-give way sila sa mga traditional jeepneys nga nagdagan para lang gyud nga katong traditional jeepney kay makapundo sila,” Maghanoy said.
(Many of our fellow cooperatives have a fleet of modern jeepneys that are not plying the roads. Why? They gave way to the traditional jeepneys that are currently plying the roads for the sake of allowing them to earn their livelihood and save up.)
During the motu proprio hearing of the Committee on Transportation last Jan. 10, some lower house legislators questioned the feasibility of the PUVMP, considering the outcry of traditional jeepney operators and drivers who are against the initiative.
They are pushing for President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to reconsider the Jan. 31 deadline for the franchise consolidation.
Maghanoy said the PUVMP provides operators and drivers with employment opportunities that include government benefits such as the monthly contribution to the Social Security Service (SSS), Pag-Ibig Fund and PhilHealth.
Cooperatives also provide their employees with health insurance.
Meanwhile, Maghanoy assured the commuting public that there will be no abrupt fare increase, pointing out that any fare hike is subject to the LTFRB’s deliberation and approval.
The Department of Transportation considers franchise consolidation as the first step of the PUVMP. The next step is rationalizing routes after the Jan. 31 deadline.
Route rationalization is a study that provides efficient planned routes in consideration of the demands of the passengers, referring to the Local Public Transport Route Plans of the local government units.