June 24, 2024

The city council is seeing the need to come up with an inclusive and sustainable public transport system to meet the requirements of the public transport modernization program of the national government at the same time one that will redound to the benefit of the city’s riding public.

The call, made in the form of several motions during the council’s May 27 session, is due to concerns in the continuing implementation of the public utility vehicle modernization program by the Department of Transportation.

Among other requirements, the program imposes modernization not only of the public transport units and later encouraging operators to adopt electric or e-vehicles, but also the system which includes the consolidation of individual units into groups.

The deadline set for the consolidation has been extended several times, the recent of which ended on April 30.

Based on the records of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board, 2,070 out of the 2,164 public utility vehicles in the city were able to consolidate, representing almost 96 percent consolidation.

He said the 94 individual units which were not able to consolidate are no longer allowed to ply the city roads after April 30, and can no longer pursue consolidation.

Transportation Development Officer II, Elmer Mendoza Jr., focal person of the PUV modernization program, who represented DOTR-Cordillera Director Joshua Pablito during the May 27 council session, said operators of some of the 94 unconsolidated individual units have filed a notice before the LTFRB central office that it will appeal the denial of their motion of reconsideration before the LTFRB-Cordillera to be allowed extension to consolidate.

Mendoza said those who filed the appeal were the ones who were not willing to surrender their individual franchises to consolidation and were hoping the April 30 deadline would be further extended.

However, based on LTFRB Memorandum Circular (MC) 2024-01, only those who were able to process their consolidation are allowed to operate beyond April 30.

Councilors Arthur Allad-iw and Vladimir Cayabas expressed concern on the plight of the operators and drivers affected by the imposition, while Councilor Benny Bomogao said the government should be accommodating of public transport operators willing to provide transport service instead of preventing them to do so.

Councilor Lourdes Tabanda was also concerned if there are enough units to service all city routes. 

Councilor Jose Molintas, on the other hand, asked the LTFRB whether there is a concrete plan on how public transport operators and drivers would be able to comply with the modernization of units and with the target to convert to electric vehicles by 2030.

Mendoza said the LTFRB-DOTR regional office is ready to implement based on the MC and Baguio’s local public transport route plan (LPTRP), which has been prepared by a technical working group led by the City Engineering Office with the agency’s guidance and approved by the DOTR central office.

“We have recently received the memo for the implementation of the approved LTPRP. Based on the number of consolidated units, we have enough to service all routes in the city. There are in fact a lot of routes where we see an oversupply of public transportation, so it is important to implement the route plan after having determined the appropriate fleet size for the routes,” Mendoza said.

For the 94 unconsolidated units, he said the DOTR through the LTFRB has social support mechanisms offering training programs and livelihood packages which are being offered to affected operators and drivers since 2019 during the initial wave of the modernization plan’s implementation and setting of deadlines for consolidation.

One is the Tsuper Iskolar Program in coordination with the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority where applicants comprised of those who got out of the public transportation industry for failing to consolidate are being accepted since 2020 and have so far benefited 557 scholars.

With the Department of Labor and Employment, the EnTsupreneur program offers pangkabuhayan packages of up to a maximum of P30,000 also to those who are displaced or those getting out of public transportation.

Applicants are still accepted, as DOTr/LTFRB representatives keep in touch with transport groups to locate displaced operators and drivers.

Mendoza said traditional PUJs are still allowed to ply their routes, provided they have joined the consolidation.

On the appeal to extend consolidation period, Bomogao said considering there is an application, he asked why it is being denied when it is to realize the program of government, and why additional requirements are being asked when there could be two associations that could provide transport to a route which would be better for the public.

Mendoza said much as they want to accept the application, they are restricted to do so because the guideline specifies if a route has 60 percent consolidated units, more applications for the route are no longer accepted.

“The only option is for them to join existing consolidation. Based on the guidelines, they can no longer file for a separate consolidation since they have failed to meet the recent deadline,” he said.

But Bomogao said the policy of the government should be accommodating to those who are willing to provide public transport service.

“Those who want to consolidate should always be welcome so that we can realize the program of the government. Dapat ganun. If not for that circular, they should have been qualified. Kaya kung maaari sana, i-allow sila. Anong silbi ng mga extension given if there were some things that prevent them to do so?” Bomogao said.

On modernization of fleet units, Mendoza said the scheme is gradual, and so while traditional units are still allowed, the gradual modernization of fleets is to be expected, with stakeholders needing to deploy modern units and gradually phase out traditional ones.

But for now, he said the phasing out of traditional units has been set aside pending further guidelines from LTFRB central office.

He said the government is also encouraging stakeholders to consider e-vehicles as part of the modern units which is an option for them to consider in re-fleeting of their units.

Mendoza said this is part of the implementation of the Electric Vehicle Industry Development Act but which is facing challenges in the city due to its terrains.

In its previous activities with suppliers of e-vehicles, some units were tested in the city but few were able to traverse its challenging terrains.

“We have a lot more to consider for its implementation, unlike in other regions where terrains do not require a higher power consideration for e-vehicles,” Mendoza said.

Molintas said there must be a plan that allows stakeholders in the city to be able to accommodate the phasing out of old units and meet what is asked to modernize the units.

“Are there possible investors that will help operators buy it at a cheaper cost because for now the complaint is these modernized vehicles are very expensive, and then they will have to change these units again into e-vehicles,” the councilor said.

Mendoza said there is none, and while Baguio was part of a testing, the unit that is able to operate in the city was expensive.

The motion for LTFRB to adopt an inclusive and sustainable plan that will help the transport providers and a motion seeking for further study to address the issues have been referred to the appropriate committee for recommendations. – Hanna C. Lacsamana