Transport official assures sufficient public rides as modernization begins

Transport official assures sufficient public rides as modernization begins

A TRANSPORTATION agency official assured the riding public on Monday of sufficient transport options in Metro Manila as the government pushes through with its end-January deadline for a modernization program that consequently phases out traditional jeepneys from their routes nationwide.

Speaking at a Palace briefing, Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) Director Zona Russet Tamayo said that about 97% of the registered public utility jeepneys (PUJ) in Metro Manila for 2023 have already complied with the consolidation requirement under the Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP).

On a national scale, more than 70% of transport franchises have already consolidated.

Ms. Tamayo stressed that many of those that have failed to consolidate “belong to short-distance routes which can be covered by long-route jeepneys after the consolidation.”

Citing LTFRB’s route mapping, she said there will be no problems in terms of public transport supply.

“When we map out the routes in NCR, the majority of its main thoroughfares have consolidated or are operating transport in other modes — perhaps buses, UVs, and even jeepneys,” Ms. Tamayo said. “There will be sufficient supply of public transport in the NCR.”

The agency has contingency plans in case of shortage issues, she added.

“We have coordinated with the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority as well as with different local government units in case that there would be a need.”

Ms. Tamayo said the number of jeepneys in Metro Manila seeking franchise over the last years has been on a decline.

Jeepney drivers have been given until Jan. 31 to comply with the consolidation requirement, which pushed transport group Manibela to launch another protest action today, Jan. 16.

The LTFRB said it will assess in January whether routes have attained at least 60% consolidation.

“Those who have failed to consolidate will no longer be allowed to run the routes, except if we see, if we analyze that there is a need,” Ms. Tamayo said. “But so far, by February 1 they will no longer be allowed to ply the routes.”

She said drivers who will be flagged by authorities need to present a copy of their vehicle registration and a copy of their application for consolidation.

The LTFRB said it has yet to issue special permits that would allow jeepneys that have failed to comply with the requirement to service routes where the consolidation rate remains low.

At the weekend, the Office of Transportation Cooperatives (OTC), an attached agency of the Department of Transportation (DoTr), said public utility vehicle (PUV) drivers and operators who failed to meet the Dec. 31, 2023 consolidation deadline would not be allowed to ply their routes beginning Feb. 1.

Mr. Marcos last month did not heed the call for a deadline extension, saying 70% of all operators in the country had already complied with the consolidation requirement.

He said the government cannot let the minority cause further delays to the program.

Speaking at the Palace briefing, OTC Chairperson Jesus Ortega said the numbers presented to the President in a meeting last month were “transparent.”

“So about misleading the President or anything negative, it did not happen. The President knows the program very well,” he said, after Manibela president Mar Valbuena accused the LTFRB and other agencies behind the PUV modernization program of misinforming Mr. Marcos.

“Days before, and even a day before we met the President, the list that we presented was updated,” said Mr. Ortega. “Nationwide, per mode, per region, it was all stated there. Secretary Bautista ordered that we should be transparent in all the information that we have to give and that is what we did.”

Manibela, which announced a protest caravan that will move from Quezon City to the Supreme Court (SC) on Taft Avenue, Manila today, has been urging the government to recall the so-called modernization program as it would leave thousands of jeepney drivers jobless.

Piston, another transport group opposed to the program, has already asked the SC to issue a temporary restraining order against the consolidation requirement.

The government should prioritize the completion of its route rationalization study, which was halted during the pandemic, before preventing jeepney drivers who fail to join cooperatives from continuing operations, other groups said.

Ms. Tamayo said the DoTr is “crafting with the financing in order for the rationalization study to continue in the next years.”

At the same briefing, the transport officials said the projected P50-fare hike in the next five years due to the modernization program is a “baseless” claim — referring to a projection by Ibon Foundation.

Mr. Ortega said there will only be a P2 difference in fare, noting that six years ago, the fare in modern jeeps was P11 for every commuter as opposed to P9 in a traditional jeepney.

“The P2 difference is maintained today when fare in traditional jeeps cost P13 and modern jeeps cost P15,” she said. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza