BAGUIO CITY — A coalition against the phase-out of old jeepney units in the Cordillera held a protest at the regional office of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulations Board (LTFRB) Cordillera against the new directive on franchise consolidation.

Members of the Cordillera Coalition for Pro-People Public Utility Vehicle Modernization (CCPPUVM) on Monday, January 20, trooped the office to score Memorandum Circular 2019-066. The group said the new order does not resolve the concerns of small jeepney operators and the riding regarding the PUV.

Instead of finding ways to modernize our public transportation effectively, the LTFRB issued an order to accelerate the consolidation of the franchise and blackmail small operators,” said Carlito Wayas in Ilokano.

The Piston Metro Baguio chair and conveners of the coalition said they are not opposed to modernizing public transportation. However, he lamented that the government does not listen to our suggestions.

“We already forwarded recommendation so that small operators can afford the program. However, the government is not considering our suggestions because it wants to ensure the profit they promised the big vehicle manufacturers,” he added.

Wayas also pointed out that simplifying the application for the consolidation process is part of the “divide and rule tactics” of the government to weaken the resistance against the “sham modernization program.”

Leaders of the demonstrator also submitted a petition against the directive. LTFRB Cordillera Officer-in-Charge Lalaine Sobremonte received the appeal and held a short dialogue with the transport leaders.

According to her, the petitioners laid two main concerns during the dialogue —losing their “franchise ownership” and the high capital needed for the modernization program.

“The feeling that they are going to lose ownership because in the consolidation [the franchise] will all be in the name of the cooperative, the corporation or the legal entity, so they will really lose their individual franchise,” she said in mix English and Filipino.

She explained that the “franchise is actually a privilege given to them, and because it is a privilege, the government can take it back.”

“The government is not that harsh. According to the MC [2019-006], their unit can still operate if given provisional authority, but they have to present a [Motor Vehicle Inspection System] certification,” she added.

The Land Transportation Office is in-charge of the 60-point computerized MVIS. The system checks the roadworthiness of the vehicle from safety, smoke emission, and even the required improvements for PUVs.

Sobremonte also cited the P80,000 subsidy provided by the government to acquire the new units. She said the Department of Transportation (DoTr) computed the amount when the price of the unit was still around P1 million.

“But now, it is already P2 million up, so DOTr is looking on how to increase the equity from P80K to the present amount,” she added.

The LTFRB regional chief said they would forward the petition to the central office. However, she clarified that even with the petition and protests, they would implement the program within the June 30, 2020 deadline unless they receive new orders telling them otherwise.

In the petition, the group said that growing protest against the PUV modernization program, they were expecting the government to halt or review the plan. However, they are “saddened” with the new circular released on December 19 last year.

“The agency (LTFRB) is hell-bent in putting the operators with no choice but to get trapped with its modernization program, to protect the interest of transport companies to sell their overproduced new models of vehicles sacrificing the interest of small operators to their livelihood and commuters to their right to cheaper transport service,” the petition said.

However, the transport coalition argued in their petition that the provisions of the new circular are “sure move of the LTFRB to confiscate individual franchises” citing the following reasons:

  • The provisional authority is only for one year, but the vehicle must pass the computerized Motor Vehicle Inspection System (MVIS), which according to the group sets standards that only brand new vehicles can comply;
  • The financial qualifications for the operation of the new jeepney models remain to be expensive despite the lowering of the maintenance and repair requirement from P50,000 to P20,000.
  • For those entering the franchise consolidation, approval of their application requires their fleet to be 100 percent new models; and
  • They are required to manifest their willingness to abide by the route rationalization and other requirements for the modernization scheme.

The coalition is composed of the Baguio-Benguet Movement Against Jeepney Phase-out, Kalinga Federation of Transport Operators and Drivers Association, and Abra Operators and Drivers Federation.

“DOTr cannot hide its incompetence on implementing a genuine and pro-people modernization. We will not tire exposing the deceptive steps of the government on the program,” Wayas said.

He added that they would continue to resist the present modernization scheme. They will also study and recommend steps to modernize public transport modernization that will benefit everybody.

During the Senate hearing on PUV modernization last November 2019, the DOTr admitted the program accomplished only 2 percent of its target for the entire country. Earlier, during the budget deliberation, the Senate also questioned the department for not allocating funds for the program in its 2020 proposed DOTr budget.

Based on government records, the country has about 170,000 PUVs. The program intends to ban PUVs that are 15 years old and above from operating. Modern jeepneys produced by automobile corporations worth P1.6 million to P2.2 million will replace the old ones. # nordis.net

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