Marcos vows to review PUV program cuts strike short
MANILA, Philippines — President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has promised that the government would review the contentious provisions of the public utility vehicle modernization program (PUVMP), prompting transport groups to end their weeklong strike and resume operations starting Wednesday.
The president expressed gratitude to members of lead organizers Manibela and Piston for calling off the protest and heeding the call of the government to sit down and discuss their concerns.
“I thank them [because] I think they felt [that] they have made their point very clearly that we need to scrutinize and study this [PUVMP] well,” Marcos told reporters on the sidelines of the launch of the Kadiwa outlet in Quezon City.
“This is what I’ve said before, that we need to review this system on the changing of jeepneys and buses and that in the different transport areas we need to look at them well so that we will not be causing additional suffering to our transport workers,” he added.
Marcos said the government was now looking at ways to ensure that no PUV worker would be jobless once the modernization program is fully implemented.
He said it was “very important” that the PUVs are safe and promised to find ways to help jeepney operators and drivers acquire modern PUVs.
He added that he recognized the problem faced by drivers and operators who worry that they might not be able to secure loans to buy modern PUVs that are expensive.
“For now, what we’re doing is making sure that our vehicles are safe, that the passengers, the commuters will not be endangered,” Marcos said.
Line to Malacañang
In a radio interview on Wednesday, Presidential Communications Office (PCO) Secretary Cheloy Garafil gave further details about the talks with Mar Valbuena of Manibela and Piston president Modesto Floranda in Malacañang the night before that led to the calling off of the strike.
“We had an agreement that the government will listen to their plight. Their problem apparently, as they said last night, was that the line of communication seemed to have been cut off, so [there] were speculations, they were confused, so they held the strike,” Garafil explained.
“We assured them that the government will continue to listen to their plight. President Marcos said before that the implementation of the PUVMP will be reviewed,” she pointed out.
Garafil said both Manibela and Piston admitted that PUVs need to be modernized, but “what became the problem is the implementation which needed to be reviewed so that it would not bring difficulties to the members of the transportation [sector].”
Asked if the government promised that there would be no more phaseout of jeepneys, she replied, “we did not talk about it. The only commitment [by the government] is to listen to their side and to their suggestions.”
“But we gave them an assurance that if they have additional questions that they feel are not being heard, they can go straight to Secretary Lucas Bersamin so that President Marcos will be the one to look at it,” she said.
“We will hold President Marcos to his word that the government is open to revising the implementation of the [PUVMP] to keep the livelihood of our PUV drivers and operators,” Valbuena said in a statement released by the PCO.
According to Floranda, among the promises of the president was to allow traditional jeepneys that are 10 to 20 years old to continue operating, as long as these are compliant with the national standards and pass the emission test.
The transport leader said the Palace was able to assure them that there would be no phaseout of traditional jeepneys by Dec. 31 and as the Department of Transportation reviews the modernization program, new guidelines would be released in the coming weeks.
Floranda said they were promised that the transportation sector, which includes drivers and operators, would be part of the reassessment of the franchising guidelines.
In case the government fails to fulfill its promises, Valbuena warned: “We will go back to strike… I hope the door and mindset of those in the agency are always open and the dialogue is not just one-sided.