A CEBU-BASED workers’ group has called for transparency in the importation of modern jeepneys and demanded their local production amid the challenges faced by traditional operators and jeepney drivers due to the expiration of the deadline for franchise consolidation on Dec. 31, 2023.
Partido Manggagawa (PM) Cebu spokesperson Dennis Derige said the labor group calls for the National Government to prioritize locally made modern jeepneys over expensive imported minibuses, as this will reduce the production cost and generate jobs.
“Kailangan pa bang i-memorize yan? Doon tayo sa mura at gawang Pinoy,” Derige said in a statement on Thursday, Jan. 4, 2023.
(Do we still need to memorize this? We must go for affordable products made by Filipinos.)
An imported modern public utility vehicle (PUV) is reportedly priced at P2 million to P3 million or more, depending on the model, size and brand.
However, a local manufacturer is now offering an electric jeepney for less than P1 million, just a third of price tag of an imported vehicle.
In a Facebook post, Elmer Francisco, owner of Francisco Motors, offered its e-jeepney featuring the traditional jeepney style and look at a selling price of P985,000 for its first 1,000 units.
The lower price gives jeepney operators and drivers and cooperatives an affordable way to become part of the government’s Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP) without the risk of getting trapped in debt.
Francisco also offers his e-jeepneys for a P50,000 down payment per unit, with flexibility in the installment payments of around P20,000 per month for only 32 months, since the government already provides equity subsidy of P280,000 per unit under the PUVMP.
The vehicle, which can carry a total of 30 passengers, including standing passengers, is equipped with air-conditioning, a closed-circuit television camera and a person with disability (PWD) ramp.
The manufacturer pledged the rollout of the units per batch by the second quarter of 2024 to those who have initially ordered its vehicles.
In a text message on Friday, Jan. 5, Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) 7 Director Eduardo Montealto Jr. said locally produced modern PUVs are always a welcome development, adding that it would be up to the cooperatives what brand and model of PUV to choose.
“Yes, it’s good to have it as long as they could get accreditation and a Philippine National Standard (PNS) certificate,” Montealto said, referring to the set of standards for PUVs in terms of dimension and specification.
“Coops, as well as corporations, have the liberty to choose brands of MPUJs. It’s up to them as long as there’s a PNS,” he added.
Montealto said the LTFRB’s role was to process the franchises of the cooperatives’ new MPUV units and determine the routes to ply based on the existing routes pending the approval of the Local Public Transport Route Plans (LPTRP) of local government units (LGUs).
The labor group stressed that not only the traditional jeepney drivers and operators but also the riding public, which will lose its affordable means of transportation, will be affected by what it called the rushed enforcement of jeepney consolidation.
“The bitter truth is that the government is not ready to implement the phase of jeepney consolidation and the next period of the shift to modernization. Why impose a hard deadline on jeepney operators and drivers when transportation officials cannot even provide hard data on the level of consolidation? In fact, transport officials also cannot give the exact number of LGUs which already have Local Public Transport Route Plans, which is a crucial component of the scheme along with consolidation,” Derige said.
According to the Department of Transportation (DOTr), the LPTRP is the basis for the minimum requirement prescribed for the issuance of PUV franchises under the modernization program as it serves as a detailed plan route network with specific modes of transportation and required number of units per mode for delivering land transport services set by each LGU.
Cebu City has yet to approve its LPTRP.
PM-Cebu also called for a one-year extension of individual jeepney franchises, as 140,000 operators and drivers stand to lose their source of living by Feb. 1, 2024.
According to LTFRB Memorandum Circular 2023-052, independent operators can continue operating until Jan. 31, 2024 on routes where less than 60 percent of vehicles have been consolidated. However, after Dec. 31, they are now prohibited from joining consolidated groups.
The labor group said this exposed the government’s unpreparedness for the possibility of a shortage in public transportation as a consequence of the jeepney modernization plan.
Last Jan. 2, Greg Perez, chairman of Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide (Piston) Cebu, said the latest memorandum circular issued on Dec. 22 allows him and fellow drivers to remain operational; however, they hoped for developments in their favor.
Last Tuesday, Montealto told SunStar Cebu that a show-cause order would be issued against those who failed to comply with the consolidation requirement.
“They will be sent a show cause order asking them to explain why they have not consolidated despite the number of extended days... We will listen to their reasons,” he said.
Montealto said they had yet to determine the total number of consolidated units, given that many operators opted for consolidation at the last minute.
While sorting through the data, the LTFRB 7 is also validating which of the units are abandoned and dilapidated, or not economically suitable for operations anymore.
“There are also units that, two or five years have passed, yet there is no movement, such as updating on the status of their franchise,” he said.
He also mentioned that they are dealing with limitations, including only having two computers for the database system used in the consolidation process.
As for those who had earlier heeded the call for consolidation, one group described how it has been managing.
Chairperson Robert Orilla of Pit-os Talamban Mandaue Transport Cooperative (Pitamco) said Wednesday that they had been following modernization guidelines, providing benefits like Social Security System, PhilHealth, and Pag-Ibig Fund to both drivers and public assistance officers (konduktor in Cebuano).
He said they plan to include incorporating vacation and sick leave benefits for drivers and public assistance officers (Paos), aligning with the benefits offered to regular employees.
Orilla said Pitamco currently employs over 100 drivers as well as Paos, with 120 operational modern jeepneys.
He also said Paos receive the minimum wage, while drivers earn over P500 per day. Salary disbursements occur on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, depending on the worker’s preference.
In Central Visayas, the minimum wage for non-agricultural workers in Class A cities, including Cebu City, is P468 per day.