The Public Utility Vehicle (PUV) Modernization Program has had its ups and downs. However, things seem to be picking up in 2021. This latest PUV Modernization update is a welcome news for our jeepney drivers and operators. There is now an even clearer push for a more just and humane approach to PUV modernization – one that is sorely needed by one of the sectors hit hardest during this pandemic.
Jeepneys are an integral part of our culture and the daily lives of most Filipinos. A lot of people depend on them to get around. Therefore, we need to extend as much support as we can to this sector. Modernization is important and should be done. However, there should exist a balance to ensure the welfare of our drivers and operators.
Thankfully, this balance is exactly what our lawmakers are pushing for. Read on.
A push for a ‘just and humane’ modernization program
The Senate Committees on Public Services and Finances held a joint hearing on the PUV Modernization last March 16. Led by Public Services Committee Chairperson Senator Grace Poe, the hearing discussed Senate Bill no. 867, seeking a “just and humane” PUV Modernization program.
“The roadworthy jeepneys deserve to be back on the streets. Our people need them to move around and be productive. They are our partners in the pandemic recovery,” said Poe in an earlier statement. Poe is also the author of the said bill.
In this PUV Modernization update, this bill states that jeepneys will only be required to replace the diesel engines to a Euro 4-compliant one. This means that they will cut down on emissions, making them more eco-friendly.
Apart from this bill, Poe also pushed for lowering the loan interests for drivers and operators to only 4%. Drivers and operators will be given financial assistance in order to upgrade their vehicles under the PUV Modernization Program.
Danilo Yumul, chairman of the Confederation of Drivers and Operators in Central Luzon, explains in the hearing that drivers are having difficulties with the ₱40,000 monthly payment for the modern PUVs; even more so now due to the lockdowns. Poe acknowledged this, and asked Yumul and other stakeholders to furnish the committee with a letter outlining their concerns. The committee will then submit this to the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) for consideration.
An end to the ‘boundary’ system
In addition to all these changes, Poe reminded the LTFRB that any form of phaseout for PUVs is banned during the COVID-19 pandemic, under the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act.
LTFRB chairman Martin Delgra also clarified during the hearing that their previously announced deadline for consolidation does not mean the phasing out of PUVs.
The LTFRB issued last 2019 a deadline for the consolidation of jeepneys into cooperatives. It was supposed to be in June 2020; however, the government extended it to December 2020. As the year drew to a close, the LTFRB again extended it to March 31, 2021. Delgra earlier explained that those who cannot consolidate will still be allowed to operate. Their franchises will be converted to a provisional authority, allowing them to continue operating in 2021.
Franchise owners, operators, and drivers were tasked to form business transport cooperatives (TCs) which are meant to end the “boundary” system once and for all. These TCs will be able to apply for financial assistance through government loans. In addition, the TCs are required to give drivers a fixed salary, social security benefits, and health insurance, as the drivers are now considered regular employees.
A road to a brighter future
In the end, this PUV modernization update just goes to show that the government is indeed providing much needed attention and support to this matter. Hopefully, Senator Poe’s bill serves everyone fairly, and reaps all the promised benefits.
PUV Modernization seems less of a tall order now, compared to previous years. Hopefully this shift to a more just and humane program would revitalize our transport industry, and pave the way to a brighter and better future for all.