Coalition seeks active consultation, scrapping of modernization program under new transport leadership

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 24) — A transport group expressed hope that the next set of transportation leaders will junk the modernization program for public utility vehicles and initiate a proactive communication to address the needs of the sector, which has been badly hit by the pandemic and the fuel crisis.

Speaking to CNN Philippines' The Source on Friday, Mar Valbuena of transport group Manibela shared the hurdles the transport sector faced over the past years under the leadership of outgoing Department of Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade and Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board Chairman Martin Delgra.

Valbuena said for one, the government's public utility vehicle modernization program (PUV-MP) has been killing their main source of livelihood by insisting that drivers and operators replace their jeepneys with modern units that require hefty payment amid measly daily income.

Under the plan, traditional jeepneys will be replaced with new vehicles with a body make that abides by LTFRB guidelines.

Valbuena said the next leaders will hopefully consider scrapping the program, as it requires payment for new vehicles of up to ₱2.6 million.

"Noong unang inilaunch ang PUV-MP naglalaro lang po sa ₱1.2 to 1.6 million ang bagong jeep na tinatawag nilang modernized na 'di namang itsurang jeep," he said. "Ngayon po nasa ₱2.3 million to ₱2.6 million na. After two to three years, halos 100% ang tinaas na presyo ng bagong unit na inaalok sa atin."

[Translation: When they launched the PUV-MP, it only costs around ₱1.2 to ₱1.6 million to purchase these modernized units that don't even look like jeeps. Now, this has increased to ₱2.3 million to ₱2.6 million. After two to three years, the increase is almost 100% for the units that are being offered to us.]

Valbuena said the government offers a ₱160,000 subsidy for loan equity, but is still far from covering a unit's selling price. A PUV driver who only earns around ₱200 will not be able to raise ₱1,000 daily for a loan amortization, he noted.

RELATED: The modernization plan is changing jeepney drivers’ lives forever 

"Ganoon po kahirap ang sinusubo sa amin na 'di naman namin kayang lunukin (It is that difficult to take in what they are offering us)," he added.

Valbuena also shared that it was always hard to reach out to Delgra, who would not communicate with them unless there is a congressional inquiry that would require his presence.

He also called on the next LTFRB leadership to consider giving jeepneys a five to 10-year franchise instead of a provisional authority to operate for at least three months so drivers can provide public convenience and ply the roads longer.

"Nandito po kami hindi para tumuligsa. Bininibigyan namin sila ng pagkakataon po na iprove ang worth nila na makapagsilbi po sa land transport sector (We are not here to go against them. We are giving them a chance to prove their worth in serving the land transport sector)," Valbuena said.

Apart from the scrapping of the modernization program and granting of franchise, Manibela's 11-point recommendation to the next administration includes interconnectivity among PUV routes, removal of the oil deregulation law, regulation of private and public terminals, and active consultation among stakeholders of public transportation.

Jaime Bautista, Philippine Airlines' former president and chief operating officer, has been named as transportation secretary of the incoming administration, while lawyer Cheloy Garafil will be the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board Chairman-designate.

Meanwhile, Former LRTA Deputy Administrator Cesar Chavez was appointed DOTr Undersecretary-designate for Rails , and Christopher "Chet" Pastrana, chairman of Archipelago Philippines Ferries Corp., is General Manager-designate of the Philippine Ports Authority.

READ: Bongbong Marcos names ex-PAL president as next DOTr chief