June 24, 2024

The consolidation of public utility jeepney (PUJ) operators and drivers is not the end of the myriad of challenges faced by the mass public transport sector.
A lot is yet to be done when it comes to the implementation of the Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP) even after the April 30 deadline set by the government for consolidation of jeepney franchises.
Consolidation is only one of the phases of the PUVMP, in which PUJ operators must merge to form one entity – either as a cooperative or a corporation – for them to be issued a franchise. This means no franchises will be issued to individual units.
Those who failed to merge are no longer allowed to ply the roads, according to the Department of Transportation-Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board.
In Baguio, the DOTR-LTFRB reported that 2,070 out of the 2,164 PUVs plying the city roads have consolidated.
One of the goals of the PUVM is to replace the traditional jeepneys that are at least 15 years old with safer and more eco-friendly units. This move is a welcome development as it will ensure the Filipino commuters of a pleasant travel while keeping the environment clean.
However, there are several gaps the PUVMP still needs to address, among which is the threat to the livelihood of jeepney operators and drivers. While jeepney operators may have consolidated, their groups will have to acquire modernized units with engines that are at least Euro 4-compliant or units that are run by electricity, among other standards.
The price of a modern jeepney, which ranges from P1.6 million to P2.4M is prohibitive. It is too much a burden for the humble driver or operator. Even if operators avail of the soft loans offered them by the government, the price remains high and to be able to pay the amortization, operators and drivers will have no recourse but to increase fare.
A fare increase is also the last thing the Filipino commuter wants. For the longest time, commuters have always depended on jeepneys for their day-to-day activities, being the most affordable mode of transport.
In the Cordillera, it is more challenging for jeepney operators and drivers to adopt the modernized models because of the region’s terrains, which is unfit for the modern jeepneys, especially those that run through electricity. There are units that can traverse mountainous terrains, but again, it will be burdensome to the operators.
We share the sentiments of those in the transport sector who say they are not against the modernization program. All the operators ask is for the government to allow them to acquire units cheaper than P1.6 to P2.4M.
We support the call of the operators and drivers for the government to allow them to replace their old units to the locally-manufactured models that are way cheaper than the imported ones. The locally-manufactured jeepneys are also more practical for the Cordillera terrains.
We hope the government realizes that patronizing the local jeepney models is preserving the Filipino heritage.
We welcome the government’s initiative of making the Philippine transportation highly efficient, safe, and eco-friendly, but this should not be done at the expense of the operators and drivers who depend on the iconic jeepney as their source of livelihood and the commuters who rely on this affordable and reliable mode of transportation.