Unconsolidated jeepneys still plying Metro Cebu

Unconsolidated jeepneys still plying Metro Cebu
SunStar File

AFTER the deadline set for the consolidation of traditional jeepney units to entities, unconsolidated units are still able to ply streets in Metro Cebu.

This is in accordance with the issued Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) memorandum circular 2023-052 that aims to ensure an adequate supply of public transport on affected routes following consolidation.

Under the updated guidelines, the LTFRB permits unconsolidated individual operators to sustain operations until January 31, 2024, particularly on routes where fewer than 60 percent of units have undergone consolidation. However, they are no longer allowed to join consolidated entities.

Director Eduardo Montealto Jr. of LTFRB Central Visayas told SunStar Cebu on Tuesday, January 2, that a show-cause order will, however, be issued against them for failure 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 are 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, they are also validating which of these units are abandoned and dilapidated, or those not economically suitable for operations.

"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 existing database system used in the consolidation process.

Bhon Marc Saturinas, focal person for the Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP) of LTFRB Central Visayas, confirmed in a text message on Tuesday evening, January 2, that there are a total of 8,504 consolidated units in the region.

But Saturinas did not provide data on how many units were not consolidated after the given deadline.

In a separate interview on Wednesday, January 3, Montealto said that currently, the consolidation rate in the region is at 80 percent, but he added that further validation and encoding to some applications are still being made.

The chairman of Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide (Piston) Cebu, Greg Perez, said that unconsolidated traditional jeepneys continue to operate after the deadline.

He clarified in an interview on Tuesday that the current low number of operating jeepneys is due to some drivers visiting their hometowns for the holidays.

"Some drivers have not returned yet, but if you're asking whether they will operate, yes, all are still operating," he said in Cebuano on Tuesday.

Perez, referring to the latest memorandum circular issued on December 22, said they will remain operational, hoping for developments in their favor.

He said the LTFRB is acknowledging the potential impact on the transportation system if unconsolidated units are not allowed to run, potentially leading to a transport crisis.

"LTFRB is also exploring ways to prevent this from happening since it would affect transportation numbers," he added.

He reiterated their steadfast stance against consolidation, expressing hope that the Supreme Court will issue a temporary restraining order against the implementation of PUVMP.

Meanwhile, the Department of Labor Agency advocates for the regularization of jeepney drivers, emphasizing the need to treat them as regular employees entitled to labor and social benefits.

Labor Undersecretary Benjo Benavidez in an interview in December 2023 said they support the PUVMP, anticipating its positive impact on securing full employment for drivers.

Chairperson Robert Orilla of Pit-Os Talamban Mandaue Transport Cooperative (Pitamco) said they have been following modernization guidelines, providing benefits like Social Security System, PhilHealth, and Pag-Ibig to both drivers and public assistance officers (konduktors in Cebuano).

He said on Wednesday that they plan to include incorporating vacation and sick leaves for drivers and public assistance officers (Paos), aligning with the benefits offered to regular employees.

Orilla said that at present, the cooperative employs over 100 drivers as well as Paos, with 120 operational modern jeepneys.

He also said that Paos receive a 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 at P468 per day.

In early 2023, the LTFRB endorsed memorandum circular 2023-013, declaring that individual operators of traditional public utility jeepneys must cease operations after June 30 unless they become part of a cooperative or corporation, in line with the National Government's PUVMP.

The initiative strives to substitute outdated and conventional jeepneys with eco-friendly, high-quality vehicles featuring increased capacities.

Yet, LTFRB Chairperson Teofilo Guadiz III issued a memorandum circular extending the consolidation franchise until December 31, 2023.

Guadiz said this decision was prompted by the transportation sector's request, dismissing any suggestion that it was intended to prevent the one-week strike by PUV drivers and operators.

Transportation factions had initiated a nationwide strike on March 6, but they terminated the protest after two days upon receiving assurance from Malacañang that President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. would initiate a review of the controversial PUVMP. (KJF)

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