Philippine electronic jeep

PUV Modernization Program Draws Flak

The past three days have brought about different opinions about the government’s Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP), with the Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide (Piston) expressing their disapproval through a 2-day transport strike last 16-17 October 2017.

In light of the PUV’s still on the roads despite being more than 15 years old, the government has come up with a plan to modernize these vehicles. Instead of rehabilitating them, however, the plan aims to phase out older vehicles and replace them with electric ones. A subsidy will be provided to affected drivers and operators to aid them in the process of modernization.

Anti-poor

Among the car owners and transport operators, jeepney drivers seem to be the most affected, with approximately 200,000 jeepneys to be phased out. Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella has stated that despite the disapproval of Piston, various other transport groups had expressed their support for the government project.

Groups supporting jeepney drivers and operators have described the modernization program as an "anti-poor" scheme, which will inevitably bury drivers and operators in debt if not drive them out of business entirely. At a press conference in Quezon City, Ferdinand Gaite of the Confederation for Unity, Recognition, and Advancement of Government Employees (Courage) said, "Our small-time jeepney operators and drivers could not afford the very expensive electronic jeepneys.”

According to the Crispin B. Beltran Research Center, the Php417 billion ?PUVMP will affect approximately 70,000 jeepneys in Metro Manila; 270,000 jeepneys nationwide; and around 650,000 drivers. Gaite further says that the plan to phase out jeepneys would result in a higher base fare of around Php12 to Php20. It would also force drivers to buy new e-jeeps worth Php1.5 to Php1.8 million. "Even with a promised subsidy, our small and independent operators would not be able to bear this,” added Gaite.

What are the alternatives?

Instead of phasing out older jeepneys, many have proposed the rehabilitation of these vehicles so they can serve the public for a longer time. Other suggested alternatives include an increased government subsidy for jeepney drivers and small operators and lower tariff for imported jeepneys.

Even the senate had questions on why the Department of Transportation (DOTr) was embarking on an ambitious nationwide modernization plan. Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto pointed out the yet to be resolved traffic woes in the metro and asked why the agency was focusing on a new project instead of addressing these problems. He also mentioned the slow rollout and distribution of vehicle license plates and plastic drivers’ licenses.

Senator Grace Poe, chair of the Senate committee on public services, also weighed in on the subject, stating that the transport strike was a wake-up call for the DOTr to start listening to the concerns of jeepney drivers and operators.

Despite the transport strike, however, the government is adamant on implementing the PUVMP. “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.