A CEBU-BASED transport cooperative has expressed dissatisfaction with the renewed extension of the deadline for the consolidation of public utility vehicles (PUVs) into cooperatives or corporations, saying it only prolongs the competition between the consolidated and modern PUVs and the unconsolidated and traditional public utility jeepneys (TPUJ) for ridership of the commuting public.
But for another transport group, there was jubilation.
Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide (Piston)-Cebu was elated at the Malacañang announcement that the deadline had been extended to April 30, 2024 from the previous Dec. 31, 2023.
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. approved the recommendation of Transport Secretary Jaime Bautista to grant transport operators an additional three months for franchise consolidation, as reported by the Presidential Communications Office (PCO) on Wednesday night, Jan. 24.
The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) on Thursday said the extension was given so the unconsolidated PUV and UV Express operators and drivers could still join a transport cooperative/corporation or form one themselves.
However, Ellen Maghanoy, chairperson of the Federation of Cebu Transport Cooperatives (FCTC), told SunStar Cebu Thursday that the modern PUVs had been experiencing difficulty in competing with the TPUJs in terms of passenger demand and fuel consumption.
Further delays in the full implementation of the Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP) such as the extension of the franchise consolidation deadline, Maghanoy said, would have detrimental effects on the transport cooperatives that had diligently abided by the rules of the program.
She said transport cooperatives are now operating while paying huge monthly amortization to the bank due to the loans incurred to purchase modern PUV units.
If this continues, cooperatives will operate at a loss against TPUJs due to the riding public’s preference for TPUJs that charge lower fares, she said.
The minimum fares are P13 for TPUJs and P15 for modern PUVs.
In addition, traditional jeepneys consume less fuel than modern PUVs, Maghanoy said.
“This PUVMP program started in 2017 yet. What year is it now? It’s 2024 already. If they really wanted to consolidate or join a cooperative or corporation, or form their own cooperative or cooperation, then they would have done so long ago,” Maghanoy said in Cebuano.
“It’s been a while already, which means those who remain unconsolidated really have no plans, even when the April 30 deadline comes,” she added.
Maghanoy, chairperson of the El Pardo Transport Cooperative, a member of FCTC, said they were paying close to P3 million in monthly amortization to the bank for purchasing up to 80 modern PUVs.
“I don’t know how long we can keep this up and whether we can still pay our loans. We gambled on this. We borrowed money. We were hoping that what they (LTFRB) processed would only be until Dec. 31, with no more extension. That was the only thing that had encouraged us,” she said.
“When we heard (the news about the deadline extension) yesterday, we just prayed that we would still be able to hang on, to be able to survive with all the payments we have to make to the bank,” she added.
If the extension keeps on coming, Maghanoy asked the National Government to support the transport cooperative and corporation who have complied with the consolidation requirement in their financial obligation.
After the Dec. 31 deadline, the government had said that unconsolidated TPUJs and UV Express units would be permitted to operate only on routes with less than a 60 percent consolidation rate until Jan. 31, 2024.
The LTFRB announced that it would issue show cause orders and consider as “colorum” (operating illegally) drivers who did not comply with the consolidation requirement yet still continued to ply the roads on Feb. 1, 2024.
Piston Cebu president Greg Perez told SunStar Cebu Thursday that their members were delighted at the development as they continue their efforts to bring about the eventual scrapping of the PUVMP.
Perez said the PUVMP must be replaced with a jeepney modernization program that is more responsive and balances the needs of the riding public and the transport sector, including the TPUJ operators and drivers.
The three-month extension has been the result of their concerted action in voicing out their concerns and disagreement with the implementation of the PUVMP program, Perez said.
“We can see that the government has admitted that this program has deficiencies. That’s why the deadline has been extended. That’s why we request that the program be reexamined or even scrapped,” Perez said in Cebuano.
“The battle of the operators and drivers continues because what we are defending is the livelihood of our operators and drivers,” he added.
No more extension
In a press conference streamed lived on the LTFRB Facebook page on Thursday, Bautista said that after the April 30 deadline, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) will no longer recommend another extension of the franchise consolidation deadline.
This was already the eighth time that the consolidation was extended since 2017, Bautista said.
He added that franchises that the government gave to the operators and drivers and holders are a privilege and not a right.
“Perhaps it is only proper that since the government gives them the privileges, they should also follow the government’s requirements. We are doing this for the good of the majority. This is not for the good of the DOTr and LTFRB employees. This is for the riders, for our drivers, and for our operators,” Bautista said in Tagalog.
He added that this is a move by the executive department despite the ongoing hearing in the House of Representatives with the resolution asking the Marcos administration to extend the franchise consolidation deadline until concrete solutions are provided to address the issues regarding the program.
With around 67 percent of PUVs, UV Express units, mini-buses and public utility buses having already undergone consolidation nationwide, Bautista believes that the three-month extension will increase the figures to 85 percent by the April 30 deadline.