As strike looms, gov’t moves jeepney franchise deadline
MANILA, Philippines — The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) has extended the validity of the provisional authorities (PAs), or franchises, of traditional jeepneys from June 30 to Dec. 31.
LTFRB Chair Teofilo Guadiz III said this was in response to the advice of President Marcos and Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista to give individual operators more time to consolidate into corporations or cooperatives and participate in the public utility vehicle (PUV) modernization program.
He added that the agency was also “heeding the resolution from the Senate that [it] will defer to the decision of the LTFRB to [extend the] deadline from June 30 to Dec 31, 2023.”
Guadiz noted that the decision was not brought by pressure from the planned weeklong strike starting March 6 to to contest the impending phaseout of traditional jeepneys, saying that more than 90 percent of the transport groups have signified their support for the PUV modernization plan.
The planned mass action is in protest of the LTFRB memorandum setting a June 30 deadline for traditional jeepney operators and drivers to join cooperatives or risk losing their franchises.
In a move to avert the transport strike, the Senate unanimously adopted Resolution No. 44, authored by Sen. Grace Poe, urging the LTFRB to suspend the planned phaseout of the so-called king of the road.
“The LTFRB should not coerce PUV operators into complying with their guidelines without addressing the sector’s concerns, particularly on the high capital costs of acquiring modern jeepneys,” according to the resolution, citing concerns from various transport groups. Each modern vehicle running on electricity or more environment-friendly fuel is estimated to cost P2.4 million.
The Senate public services committee chaired by Poe is set to look into the matter today, but transport group Manibela reiterated on Wednesday that their planned strike would push through despite the scheduled hearing.
“Hangga’t walang malinaw po na resulta, talagang panggigipit lamang po ito at bobolahin lamang po tayo dahil mainit ang issue (Until there is no clear decision, they will just continue to coerce and trick us while the issue is burning),” the group said in a statement.
Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide (Piston) said the LTFRB’s decision to extend the deadline was a “small victory but still not enough.”
“Hangga’t patuloy tayong tinataningan sa kalsada, tuloy ang ating laban para sa ating kabuhayan at mga karapatan (As long as they’re putting a deadline on our time to ply the roads, we will continue the fight for our livelihood and rights),” Piston said in a statement.
Earlier on Wednesday, President Marcos appealed to transport groups to cancel their planned strike, assuring them that the government would improve the implementation of the PUV modernization program.
The President, however, rejected calls for the government to junk the modernization plan, saying it was “necessary,” although he admitted that its implementation was not good.
“We have to implement it in a different way,” he said, adding that he was against decommissioning jeepneys that are still safe to use.
According to him, “there are old ones that are still OK” and “that can still be used.”
The President also pointed out that the modernization program was “not urgent,” particularly the use of electric vehicles, as there is not yet enough infrastructure, such as charging stations for modern transport.
“Maybe we have to look properly at what the real timetable is for the introduction of electric vehicles, as to when exactly, if it is possible now,” he said.
Shift to e-vehicles
According to Mr. Marcos, the PUV modernization program is the first step in the government’s shift to electric vehicles.
“We will eventually move there but we still need to fix the supply of renewables,” he said.
“So those are the issues that need to be studied. It’s not that simple, but I’m hoping that with the initiatives we’re thinking of, we can convince the transport groups not to go on strike because the people will suffer and many more will suffer since they won’t be able to go to work,” he noted.
Mr. Marcos said that with the interventions he mentioned, transport groups might rethink their planned weeklong strike.
If they refuse to heed his call to cancel their strike, he said the government would provide free rides to commuters from March 6 to March 12.
Bautista also clarified on Wednesday that operators of traditional jeepneys may apply for an extension of franchise even after the LTFRB deadline.
He told reporters that jeepney drivers could still ply the roads amid the ongoing moves to modernize PUVs.
“If extension is needed and they submit the requirements, we have no choice but to grant their franchise extension,” Bautista said in Filipino.
He likewise explained that the earlier June 30 deadline would not require them to purchase new units right away, noting that joining cooperatives was only the first step in the modernization program.