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Saturday, July 13, 2024

The PUV modernization program

“It is about time to retire the veritable 78-year-old jeepney”

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The intended week-long jeepney strike has fizzled out and failed to achieve its main objectives.

Every time the government comes out with a program perceived to threaten the corporate survival of these associations, a transport strike is always their trump card.

It looks, however, that the LTFRB is standing firm with the new December 31 deadline for the phasing out of the traditional jeepneys.

As the various transport operators know very well, going on transport strike is illegal because it violates the conditions to operate public transportation.

Their permits or franchises could, therefore, be cancelled.

I suspect, however, the LTFRB will not take such a drastic action.

Besides, this will entail consequences which at the moment, the government is not prepared or does not have to take.

But for as long as the government will continue to rely on the private sector to provide the bulk of urban road mass transportation, the threat of a strike will always be there.

The government therefore must find a solution to this perennial problem.

The repeated reason given by those opposing the government’s jeepney modernization program is the cost.

But there are other hidden reasons for their objections.

One that was already admitted by one of the ring leaders is they are against the formation of cooperatives.

And why is this?

Because with cooperatives, there would be no need for transport associations anymore and this is clearly a threat to the corporate survival of these opposing associations.

As more and more operators will switch to modern jeepneys, the threat of strikes for instance from the more militant operators will continue to diminish.

It is doubtful, therefore, whether the LTFRB will agree to this demand and let the opposing operators have their cake and eat it too.

Perhaps, now is the time for the government to start thinking of adopting some practices we find in many of the big metropolitan areas around the world.

This is about operating a Bus transit system in the National Capital Region.

We are one of the few countries if not the only one that relies on the private sector to provide road mass transportation for its population.

The general practice is the government whether national or local that takes care of mass transportation.

That is why there is the mass transit system in New York City or the Bus transit system in Rome and other Metropolitan Cities.

We normally do not see swarms of privately operated jeepney like vehicles and tricycles moving people except the taxi and now grab.

It is only in our country where we see a seemingly chaotic road mass transport system.

One of the worst mistakes of the first Aquino administration in public transportation was the dismantling of what was put in place by the first Marcos administration.

This was the establishment of the Metro Transit Corporation in the late 1970s and the formation of 10 bus cooperatives with specific lines.

Only the MTC was allowed to determine its routes as it saw fit.

Had the MTC and the 10 bus cooperatives been maintained we would not be having the kind of problems that we are encountering today especially with these transport strikes and the proliferation of hundreds of bus operators in the NCR.

The government as a matter of practice does not like to manage transport operations much less own them.

This is because this will entail government subsidies which it does not like to do.

But mass transportation is a government responsibility especially in the National Capital Region and perhaps the other highly urbanized cities in the country like Baguio, Davao and Cebu.

The requirement to form cooperatives could be construed as a hybrid attempt by the government short of owning the entire operation.

LTFRB may be thinking it can supervise the cooperatives much easier than the current system which is admittedly chaotic and often times uncontrollable.

But it is not the same as having a Bus transit system fully controlled by the government. If the cooperatives is the best the government can do, the DOTr and LTFRB must put in place a more efficient system and a bureaucracy more engineer- and science-based rather than legal to supervise public road transport.

After all, the PUV modernization program is not only about new transport units but also developing a new transportation culture.

We are always hearing about the drivers not being able to afford the cost of the modern jeepneys which is about P2.8M.

But as I understand the program, it was not primarily intended for the drivers to be the ones to buy the new transport units unless they also own the units they are driving but for operators or prospective operators.

It is also to provide safe, comfortable, efficient and clean ride to paying passengers.

For the drivers, the issue has always been about wages which the modernization program can address.

And after so many of the new PUVs on the road and the way the riding public has embraced it, there is no stopping its continued success.

It is about time to retire the veritable 78-year-old jeepney.


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