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Transport groups lament ‘veiled’ phaseout

/ 04:54 AM December 25, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Three years since the government launched its program to modernize public utility vehicles (PUVs), doubts remain over its feasibility, as public road transport leaders maintain that the program would only “threaten their livelihood and very existence.”

The Alliance of Concerned Transport Organizations (Acto) and other transport groups submitted a joint position paper to lawmakers and transport officials on Dec. 3, citing “objectionable” government issuances that “will further drive our sector reeling to the ground of poverty” if implemented amid the pandemic.

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According to them, the Department of Transportation’s (DOTr) Department Order No. 2017-011, or the Omnibus Guidelines on the Planning and Identification of Public Road Transportation Services and Franchise Issuance, had discriminatory provisions.

Citing Rule 2.2 of the order, they said this provision gave undue preference and priority to “higher capacity transportation modes” in the allocation and grant of certificates of public convenience (CPCs) over lower capacity modes.

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The CPC is “the permit issued by the LTFRB (Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board) for the operation of road transportation services for public use,” defined in the order dated June 19, 2017.

Transport operators called the provision a “veiled scheme to force the phaseout of our traditional jeepney units.”

The “killer provision” for them is the fleet consolidation scheme under Rule 3.4.4, which gives the LTFRB the power to impose minimum fleet sizes for operators on any route under its “one route, one operator” concept.

This rule is strengthened by the LTFRB’s Memorandum Circular No. 2018-008, which “encourages—actually forces—existing individual CPC holders to join and/or organize transport corporations or transport cooperatives, for them to engage in fleet operation, and to acquire government-approved model of vehicles,” transport groups said in their position paper.

They said they couldn’t help but suspect that the real motive for consolidation “is to break our ranks into splinter groups, to render weak and ineffective our associations as global bargaining units.”

‘Options’

The LTFRB, furthermore, had earlier set the deadline for the filing of applications for consolidation of public jeepneys and UV (utility vehicle) express units on Dec. 31.

The deadline also marked the end of the three-year transition period for all PUVs, after which operators should have replaced their old units with “modern” vehicles in line with Euro-4 emission standards.

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On Dec. 18, the agency extended the deadline to March 31, 2021, “due to their (transport groups) clamor and after considering the present circumstances.”

Acto president Efren de Luna on Wednesday said that while they welcome the extension as it will prevent the phaseout of jeepneys during the pandemic, they would continue opposing the new fleet consolidation scheme.

Prohibitive cost

Among the components of the PUV modernization program is the promotion of “brand new and environmentally friendly units,” which will be given priority in the allocation of CPCs.

But the transport leaders pointed out that the LTFRB/DOTr-accredited vehicle models cost at least a couple million pesos more, which small operators cannot afford.

To be able to pay for these units, they may be compelled to seek higher fares, thus affecting poor commuters.

While the DOTr had doubled the subsidy for modern units to P160,000, or around 10 percent of the cost of each unit, the price is still too steep for small operators.

The standards for determining which models are modern, safe, and convenient should also be expanded, transport groups said, rather than restricting operators to a fixed model.

“Options must be open to affected operators. Or at least, suppliers or manufacturers of compliant vehicles should not be limited to those currently accredited, otherwise, it breeds monopoly,” they said. INQ

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TAGS: ACTO, DoTr, jeepney phaseout, LTFRB, Modernization, Politics, PUV, Transport
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