Inquirer.net explains why jeepney drivers, operators defy modernization plan

INQUIRER.NET HELPS to explain what is holding back the Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP). Its report highlighted the perspective of drivers, operators, and other experts who critiqued the program. It also examined the process, the requirements for operators, official guidelines restrictive on small-capacity vehicles, and route rationalization. CMFR noted how most accounts did not discuss the last point, which affects the public directly. 

The lengthy account online provides a lot of content and could have been broken down into parts to attract more readers. It does, however, lay out the failure of the plan and the inefficiency in implementation. Majority of PUV drivers and operators cannot afford to invest in the modernization of their vehicles. Many of them want to own their own franchise which they will lose in this “consolidation.” So far, no official has yet spoken about how the program can overcome this legitimate resistance. 

While media have covered the crisis for some time now, there seems to be inadequate public knowledge of the program and its implications. Media focused on the issue since last year, when PUV drivers and operators joined together to strike, expressing their concerns about the program’s requirements. Reports then cited official statements who explained their objectives. 

Kurt Dela Peña has gone back to what matters most, his lead is on-point: “The first step to PUVMP, industry consolidation, where operators are required to form cooperatives or similar legal entities, is not as simple as it may seem.”

Dela Peña cited local think tank Ibon Foundation, which pointed out that in Metro Manila, where there are nine million jeepney passengers daily, only 40 percent of jeepneys have consolidated for the PUVMP, far less than the nationwide average of about 70 percent.

Department of Transportation (DOTr) Undersecretary TJ Batan pointed out that with industry consolidation, there will be one, two, or three operators for every route. This is designed to provide predictable and reliable routes. It means that commuters can expect vehicles to come around on announced schedules. But DOTr’s Omnibus Franchising Guidelines also stated that “only cooperatives or corporations with at least 15 vehicles would be allowed to apply for new franchises,” restricting small-capacity vehicles from main roads.

Driver and operator groups told Inquirer.net that they are not against the program per se but consolidation also means the loss of individual franchise. The report also explained that they would not be able to afford the monthly amortization of PHP475,000 entailed by the program. 

Ibon Foundation further pointed out that “the government has been inefficient in planning new routes.” Government may have the strategic and comprehensive assessment of patterns of passenger use and demand for PUV, but they have yet to provide its planned routes. 

Dela Peña also cited Dr. Cresencio Montalbo Jr., from University of the Philippines’ School of Urban and Regional Planning, who proposed in his paper 16 mass transit trunk-feeder routes and 59 secondary bus routes that will back mass transit. The proposal included stand-alone routes to provide access to important residential and employment areas in Metro Manila. This plan considered the 9 million people who ride jeepneys, compared to the around 2 million who ride buses.

Coverage should point out government’s failure to consider how it will enable PUVs to modernize, to put a cost to this factor and assess how the new system can enable drivers to earn more so they can pay back their debt obligations.The media’s role in all this is crucial as the deadline approaches and the Houses start its probe on the program. Clarifying the basis of concerns expressed by drivers and operators can help government do what needs to be done so the much-needed modernization can take place. Clearly this cannot be achieved without the participation of the sector that has been serving the public for so long.