Gov’t bent on implementing PUV modernization program
Malacañang on Monday said that it would proceed with the government’s plan to modernize public utility vehicles (PUVs) despite the nationwide transport strike against the project.
In a statement, presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said transport strikes would not deter the government from implementing the Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVVMP), which he called long overdue.
The program intends to phase out old PUVs, including 200,000 jeepneys, but its critics claim that it was “antipoor.”
Abella said various transport groups had expressed support for the project, except for Piston (Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide).
“The government, through the LTFRB (Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board), will continue with the discussions, consultations and further collaboration with members of the public transport sector,” Abella said.
At a press conference in Quezon City, groups supporting the jeepney drivers and operators said the PUVVMP was a “holdup” and “antipoor” scheme.
“Our small-time jeepney operators and drivers could not afford the very expensive electronic jeepneys,” said Ferdinand Gaite of the Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (Courage).
The proposed modernization plan worth P417 billion is expected to affect around 70,000 jeepneys in Metro Manila and 270,000 jeepneys nationwide, and around 650,000 drivers, according to the Crispin B. Beltran Research Center.
Gaite said the plan to phase out jeepneys would result in a higher fare of P12 to P20 from the current P8 for a shorter distance. It would also mean shorter route and more drivers turning into contractual workers.
For Ron Villegas of the Crispin B. Beltran Research Center, the modernization program was like robbing the jeepney drivers and commuters.
Under the government’s plan, drivers would have to buy new e-jeeps worth P1.5 to P1.8 million subsidy, which he said was very expensive.
“Even with a promised subsidy, our small and independent operators would not be able to bear this,” he added.
‘Not the solution’
Jen Pajel of the All Workers Unity said the group was in favor of modernization, but pointed out that Mr. Duterte’s jeepney phaseout program was not the solution.
“If the government can allot P900 million for the anti-illegal drugs program (Oplan ‘Tokhang’) , they can also allot funds for the rehabilitation of jeepneys,” Pajel said.
Based on the modernization scheme, an operator should have 10 jeepneys. That means one operator should have P16 million to P20 million for the jeepneys and P4 million for registration, she said.
Among the proposed alternatives to the phaseout of old jeepneys are the rehabilitation of the vehicles, increased government subsidy for jeepney drivers and not big operators, and lower tariff for imported jeepneys.
But the long-term solution is to allow the country to have its own car manufacturing industry, said Cleng Holbe of Agham.
In the Senate, Sen. Grace Poe, chair of the Senate committee on public services, said the transport strike was a wake-up call for the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to listen to the concerns of jeepney drivers and operators.
During floor deliberations on the DOTr budget, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto asked why the agency was embarking on a nationwide jeepney modernization program when it had yet to resolve traffic woes in Metro Manila.
Recto also pointed out that the DOTr was embarking on a new program when it was slow in the rollout and distribution of plastic drivers’ licenses and license plates. –Reports from Philip C. Tubeza, Jodee A. Agoncillo and Jocelyn R. Uy
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