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Thursday, July 25, 2024

Reprieve for PUV operators

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There’s both good news and bad in so far as public transportation is concerned.

The good news for jeepney drivers and the public is that public utility vehicle (PUV) operators who have yet to comply with the consolidation requirement under the government’s PUV modernization program will still be allowed to ply selected routes.

The bad? They only have until the end of January 2024 to do so.

Last month, President Marcos stood firm against extending the Dec. 31 deadline for PUVs to join or organize cooperatives that would be issued consolidated franchises in line with the PUV modernization program.

These groups would be entitled to government subsidies, access to credit facilities, and other forms of assistance to help modernize their fleets.

It seems, however, that the month-long reprieve appears to be too short to allow PUV operators adequate time to meet LTFRB requirements for the modernization program.

We can’t help but think this is a concession given to PUV operators to placate or mollify them and keep them from continuing their protest actions in the streets.

The inevitable result of the ban on traditional jeepneys by Jan 31 could be a massive public transportation crisis in Metro Manila and elsewhere by Feb 1.

And, with it, more protests from the affected jeepney drivers and operators who stand to lose their source of livelihood.

We do realize the need to modernize the country’s transportation system.

The US Army jeeps transformed into jeepneys since the end of the Second World War and a staple of mass transportation since then have become an anachronism in this day and age when other fast and affordable transport modes are already available.

Many traditional jeepneys running in city streets today have seen better days and run on diesel fuel that spews out toxic fumes that impair the quality of air we breathe in the cities.

But instead of banning traditional jeepneys outright, the government could perhaps subsidize their conversion to more- environment-friendly vehicles and limit their routes to certain areas.

Or they could be allowed to operate in the provinces that need more transport

We need to modernize our mass transport system with more light rail trains, buses that run on dedicated lanes, and perhaps more subways since our road networks in the National Capital Region are already too congested with rapid population growth and few transportation options.

We understand that several transport groups that have long been opposed to the consolidation requirement cite not only the loss of their livelihood but also express concern that the franchise consolidation scheme might lead to big businesses and corporations monopolizing transport routes.

But a rationalized mass transport system may require professional management by the private sector working in tandem with government in modernizing our mass transport system to world standards instead of relying on discards from the Second World War.

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