The timing of the looming deadline for the registration of modern public utility vehicles was questioned as operators and concerned Filipinos pointed out that the country is still facing the threats of COVID-19 pandemic.
The deadline for the filing of applications for consolidation of individual and existing franchise holders is set on March 31.
The questions and concerns on the deadline were raised after the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) defended the PUV modernization program anew.
In a statement on March 17, the LTFRB said that it did not fail in addressing the concerns of PUV operators and drivers regarding the PUVMP which was officially launched in 2018.
“Nililinaw ng Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) na hindi nagkulang ang ahensya sa pagkonsulta sa mga Public Utility Vehicle (PUV) transport service cooperatives, operators at drivers kaugnay ng implementation ng Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP), lalo na ang importansya ng konsolidasyon sa ilalim ng programa,” read its statement.
The agency recalled that several consultations and information drives were conducted even before the novel coronavirus pandemic started.
“Noong 2018, kung kailan inilunsad ang PUVMP, nagkaroon ng mga inisyatibo ng LTFRB para mapalaganap ang impormasyon ng PUVMP sa mga driver at operator, at kabilang rito ang PUVMP Roadshow Caravan na isinagawa sa iba’t ibang bahagi ng bansa simula noong Hulyo 2019 hanggang Marso 2020,” LTFRB said.
“Maaalala na nagkaroon ng public consultation ang LTFRB, kasama ang Office of Transportation Cooperatives (OTC), at ng ilang PUV drivers noong ika-11 ng Marso 2020, ilang araw bago magpatupad ng Community Quarantine sa Metro Manila dahil sa Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19),” it added.
Some of the dialogues and consultations prompted some PUV operators and drivers to consolidate and avail of modern units of PUVs across the country, said the transport agency.
LTFRB hoped that the public and other PUV cooperatives would recognize the benefits of the modernization plan for the country’s public transport sector.
“Ang PUVMP ay isang programa ng administrasyong Duterte na naglalayong makapagbigay nang maayos, moderno, komportable at ligtas na pampublikong transportasyon sa bansa. Layon ng programa ang mapabuti ang sistema ng mga pampublikong sasakyan hindi lang para sa mga mananakay, kundi pati sa mga drayber at operator upang magkaroon sila ng sapat at marangal na kabuhayan,” it said.
Still facing the pandemic
While the Filipinos are for modernization of PUVs, some said they just question the rush for transportation modernization.
Critics noted that most PUV drivers have no source of income for nearly a year since mass transport was suspended due to the pandemic lockdown.
“Sana pinakikinggan niyo muna yung mga driver na di pa nakakabyahe hanggng ngayon. Asa pandemic pa. Kung isantabi niyo muna yan modernization niyo e di ok happy ang lahat kaso hindi e,” one user commented.
“Ok naman yang PUVMP kaso pandemya sinabay nyo di pa pinabyahe isang taon na. Wala talaga kaung awa na sa mga katulad namin. Sana ipagpalagay nyo mga sarili nyo sa amin, Kayo tuloy tuloy ang sweldo, kami na sa jeep lang umaasa, tinanggalan nyo kami ng hanapbuhay,” another user said.
“Yeah right…. How rich for them to say, Sinabay talaga sa Pandemya,” another said.
These were among the same grievances public transport groups and other progressive organizations have aired since they expressed their opposition against the phaseout of traditional jeepneys in the recent months.
Popular TikTok content creator Gab Campos recently joined in their cause and shared witty videos titled “Kita first, kapwa second” to help his followers be aware of the government’s modernization plan.
In a Senate hearing on March 16, LTFRB chief Martin Delgra said that old PUVs will not yet be phased out even after failing to register on March 31.
“Yung consolidation as a deadline is set in March but it doesn’t mean na titigil yung mga hindi nag-consolidate,” Delgra said.