Noncompliant PUVs: We’ll stay on road until barred | Inquirer News

Noncompliant PUVs: We’ll stay on road until barred

Public utility vehicle drivers and operators await clarity on the government directive designating certain routes where they can still operate, after the deadline for them to form cooperatives or corporations for franchise application lapsed.

Noncompliant PUVs: We’ll stay on road until barred

CONTINUING PROTEST A streamer at a terminal for jeepneys plying the Paco-Rotunda
Nagtahan route in Manila expresses the unyielding position of the local transport association about the government’s modernization program for public utility vehicles, in this photo taken on Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2024. (Photo by RICHARD A. REYES / Philippine Daily Inquirer)

MANILA, Philippines — It’s business as usual for jeepney drivers and operators who failed to consolidate their franchises into cooperatives or corporations before the Dec. 31 deadline as part of the government’s public utility vehicle modernization program (PUVMP).

While they remain wary of what will happen in the next few days or so, transport group leaders have asked their members to continue plying their usual routes until authorities bar them from doing so.


“We will continue to ferry passengers on our routes because the LTFRB (Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board) gave us a one-month extension. If there’s any confusion on how this will be enforced, it’s not our problem anymore,” Mody Floranda, president of Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide (Piston), said on Tuesday.


On Dec. 22, the LTFRB issued Memorandum Circular No. 2023-052, allowing public utility vehicles (PUVs) that have not consolidated past the year-end deadline to still operate on selected routes until Jan. 31, 2024.

Under the memorandum circular, unconsolidated PUVs may still operate on two kinds of routes: those with no consolidated transport service entities (TSEs) and those with less than 60 percent of PUV units having joined cooperatives.

Unconsolidated PUVs, however, could no longer ply routes with a consolidation rate of 60 percent and above.

During the one-month period, the LTFRB will issue show-cause orders to the unconsolidated individual operators. If the board finds the explanation inadequate, the respective franchises issued to them will be revoked.

The LTFRB will also issue special permits to selected consolidated TSEs to ensure adequate PUVs to service commuters.

Route rationalization

As of Tuesday, however, the LTFRB had yet to release its list of PUV routes nationwide. This will identify the routes where unconsolidated PUVs will be allowed or prohibited.

Mar Valbuena, president of another transport group, Malayang Alyansa ng Bus Employees at Laborers (Manibela), also told their members who have yet to consolidate to continue servicing passengers in their routes.

“The LTFRB is not yet even telling us which routes have reached 60-percent consolidation. How will enforcers apprehend us?” he said.

The lawyers who challenged the PUVMP before the Supreme Court maintained that the government should have ironed out its route planning before it proceeded with its plans to consolidate jeepney franchises.

“How can you modernize public transport using old, obsolete routes?” National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) president Neri Colmenares told the Inquirer. “From consolidation to modernization, this government is demanding so much from our jeepney drivers, but this very simple thing they cannot even do.”

“What kind of modernization are they even expecting without a route rationalization plan?” he asked.

Colmenares represents hundreds of jeepney drivers who filed an extremely urgent motion to stop the Department of Transportation (DOTr) from requiring jeepney operators to form cooperatives or corporations before applying for new franchises for modern vehicles.

Transport plan

Under the DOTr’s Department Order No. 2017-11, local governments should have crafted their local public transport plan (LPTRP) as it is the minimum requirement for franchising issuance.

LPTRPs are plans intended to create a more organized and efficient public transport system for each locality by looking at the supply and demand of public transportation and the availability of road networks in their area.

So far, however, only 9.82 percent of the country’s 1,600 local government units (LGUs) have LPTRPs, said NUPL lawyer Kristina Conti, citing the LTFRB’s data.

That the government decided to impose a hard deadline on the consolidation of jeepney franchises without a complete public transport route plan seemed illogical, Conti said.

Moreover, the LTFRB “only issued guidelines on how to make an LPTRP. It couldn’t require [LGUs] to do it,” Conti lamented.

Metro Manila, the country’s capital region, was supposed to have a more specific study to assess routes from the Greater Manila Area, including the nearby provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal.

In 2018, the DOTr had bid out consulting services for a route rationalization study for Metro Manila, but it was unclear whether this was actually finished.


Colmenares said he was “willing to stake everything that this was not done… And I would like to challenge the LGUs to protest the consolidation of jeepney operations in their areas absent route rationalization plans.”

As of Tuesday, neither the DOTr nor LTFRB could give an updated national consolidation rate after the Dec. 31 deadline had lapsed. But as of November, 70 percent or 153,787 of 222,617 PUVs nationwide—composed of jeepneys, UV Express vans and buses—have already joined 1,739 transport cooperatives.

However, Jesus Ferdinand Ortega, chair of the DOTr’s Office of Transportation Cooperatives, said the PUV consolidation in Metro Manila could have reached “40 percent.”

This was slightly higher than the 34.9 percent consolidation rate reported by the LTFRB on Dec. 29. The figure covered 317 routes for jeepneys and 81 routes for UV Express vans, the “majority” of which traverse Metro Manila’s major thoroughfares.

In a message exchange with the Inquirer, Ortega said that from Dec. 1 to Dec. 31, his office received 105 applications for consolidation of individual franchises to cooperatives—surpassing the 65 entities that were accredited to become transport cooperatives for the first 11 months of the year from January to November.

If all of these become cooperatives, this will be equivalent to at least 1,575 consolidated PUV units, Ortega said, since each cooperative should have a minimum of 15 units on its fleet.

But this may be even higher, as some cooperatives have around 100 to 200 PUV units in their applications, he said.

Who’s going to lose?

Valbuena said they were “confused” about the government’s objective in pushing for the PUVMP.

“It is the government which is making life difficult not only for PUV drivers and operators who stand to lose their livelihood but also for the commuters,” he said.

“If we (unconsolidated PUVs) will be allowed to continue operating, will the government lose anything? No. But if we are not allowed to ply on the roads, who will lose greatly? Not just us, but all of the commuters, who are also workers and students. It will have a domino effect. The economy will crumble. More people will be unemployed. Will the government be able to help us all?” Valbuena added.

Both Piston and Manibela staged nationwide strikes in the past months and warned of a transport crisis should the government not extend or scrap its consolidation deadline.

But the DOTr and LTFRB officials downplayed this, saying they did not see any indication of a transport crisis, even in Metro Manila, by 2024.

Piston and Manibela and other transport and commuter groups filed a petition before the Supreme Court last month to void all government orders requiring franchise consolidation under the PUVMP.

The petitioners sought a temporary restraining order and a writ of preliminary injunction to block the enforcement of the DOTr orders and LTFRB circulars formalizing the PUV modernization plan for being unconstitutional.

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They argued that the orders of the DOTr and LTFRB were issued in grave abuse of discretion and violated their constitutional right to freedom of association and the voluntary nature of a cooperative under Republic Act No. 9520 or the Cooperative Code.

The high court issued an order on Dec. 28 requiring the DOTr and LTFRB to comment on the petition in 10 days.

TAGS: public utility vehicles, PUV modernization program

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