DOTr unmoved: PUV operators’ consolidation deadline Dec. 31

DOTr unmoved: PUV operators’ consolidation deadline Dec. 31
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DESPITE appeals by transport groups, the deadline for the consolidation of public utility vehicle (PUV) operators and drivers into cooperatives and corporations as part of the Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP) will still be Dec. 31, 2023.

Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista confirmed this in a radio interview last Wednesday, Dec. 6, during which he also allayed fears of an immediate traditional jeepney phaseout.

However, Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide (Piston) Cebu president Greg Perez was unconvinced and called for more protest action against consolidation.

“Yung consolidation gagawin natin yan sa Dec. 31 para mas maging efficient ang operations ng transport sector. Kasi kung mag-ooperate tayo individually, hindi masyadong magiging sustainable [ang operations],” the Department of Transportation (DOTr) quoted Bautista as saying over Radyo Singko.

(We will accomplish the consolidation by Dec. 31 so the operations of the transport sector will become more efficient because if you operate individually, the operations won’t be that sustainable.)

Bautista said a “just transition” would be observed during the program implementation, so that roadworthy jeepneys would still be able to ply the streets after the deadline.

“Meron tayong tinatawag na just transition. Kasi kung gusto nila ay ibigay natin bago tayo magsimula [ng PUVMP], siguro hindi natin masisimulan ito,” he said.

(We have what we call a just transition. Because if they want this, they we’ll give this to them before we start the PUVMP. Probably, we won’t be able to start this.)

Bautista did not specify how long this transition period would be.

More protests

On Monday, Dec. 11, however, Perez told SunStar Cebu that the group would hold more protests before and even after the Dec. 31 deadline.

Perez said the mandatory franchise consolidation will eventually result in a total jeepney phaseout as they would be forced to give up their individual franchises and vehicles in exchange for buying what he called imported, expensive, non-sustainable and frail vehicles.

This would affect the livelihood of the about 200 driver and operator members of Piston-Cebu and other traditional jeepney drivers and operators plying Metro Cebu. So he urged his fellow members to continue the fight against the mandatory consolidation until Dec. 31.

“Padayon gihapon ang among pakigbisog sa mga opereytor and driver hangtud sa Dec. 31 deadline. Padayon ang mga protesta hangtod sa walay kausabang direkta nga gipakanaug ni Secretary kabahin sa franchise consolidation,” Perez said. “Padayon mi nga dili mag-consolidate ang mga drayber nato ug ang mga operaytor.”

(Our struggle with the operators and drivers will continue until the Dec. 31 deadline. The protests will continue against the lack of change in the directive of the Secretary regarding the franchise consolidation. Our drivers and operators will continue not to consolidate.)

To encourage the hesitant operators to consolidate, Bautista said transport cooperatives that joined the program had already experienced the benefits promised by the program, which include efficiency of operations and their own dispatching, proper maintenance of their fleets, and good salaries for their drivers.

Bautista said the offices of the DOTr, Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB), and the Office for Transportation Cooperatives would be open to receive applications even on Dec. 30, Rizal Day, which is a holiday.

“Let them apply already. The offices of the LTFRB, Office for Transportation Cooperatives will be open until Dec. 30. Even if it is supposed to be vacation time, we will accept their applications,” he said in Tagalog.

Replaced

Under the PUV Modernization Program, launched in 2017 and initially expected to run until 2020, jeepneys, buses and other PUVs that are at least 15 years old would be phased out and replaced with safer, bigger-capacity and environment-friendly vehicles.

The DOTr’s Department Order (DO) 2017-011, known as the Omnibus Guidelines on the Planning and Identification of Public Road Transportation Services and Franchise Issuance or the Omnibus Franchising Guidelines, launched the PUVMP on June 19, 2017.

Under the program, operators and drivers would be organized into cooperatives or corporations to ensure operational efficiency and also to help with the payment for the loans to be taken out for the purchase of the new and more efficient PUV units. Individual operators of traditional jeepneys would not be allowed to continue their operations.

The deadline for the PUVMP’s full implementation has been moved several times, however, due to opposition by drivers and operators who oppose consolidation due to their fear of the loss of their independence, as well as their unwillingness to take on debt for new vehicles, for which the loan subsidy provided by the national government constitutes only a fraction of their multimillion-peso cost.

The government has raised this loan subsidy several times from the original amount of P80,000. It was first doubled to P160,000 per unit on June 5, 2020 by virtue of DOTr Department Order 2020-006.

Last Aug. 31, Bautista signed DO 2023-018 increasing the equity subsidy further to P280,000, from P160,000 per unit.

Operators who purchase Class 1 PUV units would get P210,000 as subsidy, while those who purchase Class 2, 3 or 4 units would get P280,000 per unit as subsidy, the DOTr said.

Last March, DOTr Undersecretary Mark Steven Pastor said a Class 1 modern jeepney costs P1.4 million to P1.8 million while a Class 2 unit costs P2 million to P2.6 million, and a Class 3 unit P2.5 million to P3 million.

But last October, Federation of Cebu Transport Cooperatives (FCTC) president Ellen Maghanoy told SunStar Cebu that a modern jeepney that cost P2.5 million earlier this year, now costs P2.75 million.

Last month, the FCTC sought the expedition of the consolidation of traditional jeepney drivers and operators into cooperatives, and the full implementation of the PUVMP, saying it can solve the country’s transportation problem due to its provision of fleet management and dispatching of modern PUVs, which enables operators to determine how many of their units to dispatch on the road during rush hour.

The FCTC also sought a unified provider of a transparent and automatic fare collection system to be used to collect passenger fare among the different MPUV units to end the issue of false remittances by drivers and conductors of the daily income to the cooperative.

Last Nov. 22, Piston Cebu held a transport strike and protest to oppose the Dec. 31 deadline for the consolidation of drivers and operators under the PUVMP and to register its objection to what it says are the overpriced modern mini-buses they must buy to replace their traditional units.

Piston Cebu president Perez said that while initially priced at P2.8 million per vehicle, the cost of the new vehicles had surged to P4 million following President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s recommendation to procure electric and solar models.

Piston Cebu wants the franchise consolidation requirement removed. It also seeks the continued inclusion of both modern and traditional jeepneys on the Cebu Bus Rapid Transit routes, and the restoration of the five-year franchises (instead of one) for all PUV and modified PUV routes.

As of October, Cebu had 1,800 traditional jeepneys and 1,327 modern jeepneys.

Last October, transport group Manibela also held a protest to call for the suspension of the PUVMP and the Dec. 31 deadline for individual jeepney drivers and operators to join cooperatives or corporations.

As of mid-November, only 129,568 public utility jeepneys, UV Express, mini-buses and public utility buses had consolidated, or about 65.03 percent of all authorized PUVs nationwide. The remaining 34.97 percent consisted of 69,665 individual franchise holders. The LTFRB also said 120,023 PUVs nationwide had yet to be replaced with modern units.

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