LTFRB to ‘recalibrate’ program modernizing PU vehicles

LTFRB to ‘recalibrate’ program modernizing PU vehicles
File photo

LAND Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) Chairman Teofilo Guadiz III said on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2024, that they will “recalibrate” the Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP) to address the concerns of the affected drivers.

Guadiz made the statement after hearing the concerns of several jeepney drivers who had complied with the consolidation policy under the PUVMP during a House committee on transportation hearing.

Among those who appeared during the hearing was jeepney driver-operator Philip Borata, who said they lost ownership of their units after joining a cooperative.

Borata said the cooperative now claims ownership of their units, and he, with three other jeepney driver-operators, were even slapped with carnapping charges.

“Gumastos po kami para sa sasakyan namin. Natransfer ang franchise namin sa kanila. Ginastusan namin ang mga garahe in compliance with the requirements of the LTFRB, pero wala kaming pangalan sa kanilang corporation,” he said.

(We spent for our vehicles. Our franchise was transferred to them. We financed the garages in compliance with the requirements of the LTFRB, but we do not have our names in their corporation.)

“They filed a carnapping case against us. There were four of us who were charged with carnapping, 38 counts of carnapping. The 44 units that were approved on our route were given to us and we are the ones who manage them.

They took the four from the street by force; the drivers were given money,” he added in Tagalog.

He said they sought the help of the LTFRB, which responded that it had nothing to do with it and that it was an issue within their cooperative.

Under the PUVMP, jeepney drivers are required to join a cooperative for the approval of their provisional authority (PA), and subsequently, for the approval of their franchise.

The deadline for consolidation was Dec. 31, 2023. Some 38,000 PUVs are yet to be consolidated.

PUVs that failed to comply with the consolidation policy can operate only until Jan. 31, 2024 and only in routes with not enough jeepneys or those without cooperatives at all.

“Based on the reports reaching us, there is a necessity now to recalibrate or re-evaluate the processes of our agency, together with the Office of Transportation Cooperatives who is managing these cooperatives. So we will take a second look, a hard look, so that these issues will not recur,” Guadiz said in a mix of Tagalog and English in response to the call of several congressmen for them to review the PUVMP.

House committee on transportation chairman Romeo Acop said the LTFRB should have at least extended the deadline for consolidation considering the low accomplishment in rationalization of routes for the modernized vehicles.

“If you are given P5.5 billion [budget for the program], this is all you will show? Ten percent for route rationalization? Seventy percent for consolidation? If you hadn’t threatened them, it wouldn’t have reached this percentage?” Acop said in a mix of English and Tagalog.

Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide (Piston) president Mody Floranda and No to Jeepney Phaseout Coalition convenor Elmer Foro said during the hearing that some of them were forced to apply for consolidation for fear of no longer being able to continue their livelihood.

Committee Vice Chair Dan Fernandez later called for the passage of a resolution urging President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to reconsider his earlier decision not to allow the extension of the consolidation deadline.

Design

The design of the modern jeepneys was also discussed at the hearing.

House Speaker Martin Romualdez earlier said he received reports that the LTFRB and Department of Transportation (DOTr) were favoring China-made vehicles to replace the traditional Filipino jeepneys as part of the program.

Elmer Franciso of E-Francisco Motors, a maker of Filipino-style jeepneys, said their vehicles are far cheaper than the imported ones.

The LTFRB and DOTr earlier refuted claims that they are favoring China-made mini-buses to replace the traditional jeepneys, saying they cannot dictate what drivers/operators will acquire.

Not forced

In Cebu, the head of two transport cooperatives said the LTFRB never involved itself in the selection and procurement of their modern vehicles under the PUVMP and that they were not forced to buy imported units.

Ellen Maghanoy, chairperson of both the El Pardo Transport Cooperative and the 11-member Federation of Cebu Transport Cooperatives, told SunStar Cebu on Wednesday, Jan. 10, that after the franchise consolidation, the newly created transport cooperative or corporation is the responsible entity to canvass and select the units to compose its fleet of modern jeepney units.

In their case, she said that as cooperative officers, they canvassed various units of different designs and specifications from different vehicle manufacturers.

She explained that after they were consolidated, their traditional jeepneys that are no longer roadworthy will be dropped and replaced with the modern PUV units. The dropped traditional jeepney units will be scrapped.

Local and foreign manufacturers even visited their offices to market their vehicles for the cooperative or corporation to select.

She said they purchased only the units from manufacturers that had complied with the specifications in terms of size and design under the Philippine National Standard (PNS) of the Department of Trade and Industry.

These standards include the vehicles having Euro-4 engines, air conditioning units, closed circuit television camera, dashboard camera, automated fare collection system, and automated door at the side, among others.

After a desired unit was selected, the cooperative then coordinated with the bank, such as Land Bank of the Philippines, for the financing of these units.

Before the units could ply the road, there were checked by the LTFRB through the vehicle inspection report, if it complied with the PNS certificate, had been registered with the Land Transportation Office under the name of the cooperative, and if it is a replacement of a dropped old vehicle.

She said they plan to write to the House of Representatives to state the actual process they used in the procurement of the modern PUV units.

On a viral post of a local manufacturer offering the iconic style of the traditional jeepney, Maghanoy said it would be up to the cooperative if they would avail of that unit.

“It would depend on the cooperative if they want a historic (design). I think it would be okay so long as it passes the PNS required by the DOTr,” she said in Cebuano.

She added that even for their fleet of modern PUV units, only the engine and the chassis are imported, while the body and framework are locally assembled.

Lower price

Maghanoy asked the National Government to support the cooperatives and corporations in the purchase and financing of MPUV units by finding a way to lower the prices of MPUVs.

In their case, she said the selling price of their units in 2020 was P2.3 million; however, in 2024 it has risen to P2.6 million.

She asked the National Government to intervene by reducing taxes on the manufacturers of these PUV vehicles so these can be sold to them at lower prices.

Another option is to increase the equity subsidy, the financial aid of the government to help cooperatives purchase new PUVs under the financing programs of the Development Bank of the Philippines and Land Bank, from the current P260,000 per unit.

She said if the price increases continue, transport cooperatives may struggle with their monthly amortization.

Lowering vehicle prices is also a way to avoid imposing fare hikes that may be detrimental to the commuting public, she said. (TPM / SunStar Philippines, EHP)

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