MODERNIZING PH’S TRANSPORT SYSTEM MUST NOT BE A BURDEN
The long road that the government’s Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP) has been taking since its implementation started in 2017 seems to be getting longer, with its clear destination in sight but which is getting farther to reach, as manifested by the continued opposition from jeepney operators and drivers, including millions of commuters in the country.
Aside from their initial misgivings on the modernization plan from the start, transport groups in various cities nationwide took to the streets on a mass transport strike on March 6, which was planned to last for a week. Commuters in the Cordillera barely felt its effects, especially since jeepney drivers and commuters in the region chose not to bring to the street their own protest against the program and instead sought for further dialogues with officials of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board.
The mass transport strike, led by operators of traditional public utility jeepneys and minivans, was claimed to have paralyzed routes in some urban areas such as Metro Manila, but protesters went back to their usual routes after Malacañang agreed to their request not to phase out traditional jeepneys, though the modernization program is still pushing through and the extended deadline for jeepney operators and drivers to consolidate up to Dec. 31 is still in effect.
Once again, the transport groups are counting on Pres. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to stay true to his word that the administration will further study and analyze the implementation of the modernization program so that their livelihood will be maintained.
It should be understood that the government and the transport sector, which is mandated to comply with the jeepney modernization, both have valid points for each one to firmly stand their ground on the issue.
Except for sentimental reasons – for who would not miss or feel nostalgic about the traditional jeeps adorned with the banderitas and the ever present horses on the jeepney hood that usher the public’s every ride – modernizing the public transport system of the country is long overdue, and having safe, comfortable, and practical conveyance has been a constant clamor of the riding public.
The PUVMP is more than just taking the traditional PUJs out of the roads and replacing it with modern jeepneys or buses. We believe it has never been its intention to add the burden of the drivers and operators who have to buy a modern unit at around P2.8 million, most of them needing to take out a loan to raise the amount.
We should acknowledge most old jeepneys, especially those 15 years old and more, are partly responsible for air pollution, making our streets a health risk for a long time now.
We support the goal of making the country’s public transport aligned with global standards by providing Filipinos with a transport system that is safe, reliable, convenient, and environmentally sustainable.
We also believe that if implemented properly, encouraging and requiring the consolidation of operators and the establishment of bigger coordinated fleets of PUVs will solve the long-standing problem on colorum vehicles and kabit system or the practice of illegally extending the fleet under a franchise.
The modernized jeeps will also bring our transport system a step closer to the need to have an automated fare collection system, among other specifications, required to meet global standards.
Many drivers and operators made it clear they are not opposed to the PUVMP, but the period given to them to consolidate their ranks and to discard their old units is not enough, even when the deadline has already been extended several times.
Their appeal to be given more time to comply with the directive is understandable and, to us, reasonable.
Some groups have already consolidated into cooperatives and have been running their fleets of modern jeeps. But not all can do it as fast as the others for some valid reasons.
It should not hurt to provide them more time, and a little support and push, since our millions of jeepney operators and drivers will have to tread on a ground that may not be familiar to all of them and given the financial burden of purchasing modern jeep units.
Helping them through the process would be more encouraging than pressing a pressure button through an ultimatum.
We fully support the call for the LTFRB to postpone the planned phase-out of all traditional jeepneys and should first resolve the valid and urgent concerns raised by affected operators and drivers regarding the financial viability of the program.
This program should be achieved on a two-way street, if we want it to be successful.