Faced with jeepney strike, LTFRB unmoved with Dec. 31 deadline for consolidation

Cristina Chi - Philstar.com
Faced with jeepney strike, LTFRB unmoved with Dec. 31 deadline for consolidation
A mechanic checks the engine of one of the jeepneys parked at the FTI Terminal in Taguig City yesterday. Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista has invited public utility vehicle operators to a dialogue to address their concerns and grievances over the PUV modernization program and to forgo their planned weeklong strike.
Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — As jeepney and UV drivers start their weeklong strike, traditional jeepney drivers will still have to consolidate their vehicles by December 31 — a deadline “subject to review,” but for now, stays, the Land Transportation and Franchising Regulatory Board said.

“(The) December 31 deadline stays for now, but it will always be subject to review,” LTFRB Chairperson Teofilo Guadiz III said Monday at a streamed press conference. 

Guadiz said that while the LTFRB will extend the deadline for the completion of other requirements in the program until 2024, it will stick to the December 31 deadline for consolidation, which is the first step in the jeepney modernization program.

“The deadline may be adjusted if we see that (the drivers) can’t consolidate their vehicles until the end of the deadline,” Guadiz said in Filipino.

Around 100,000 jeepney drivers and operators launched on Monday a week-long transport strike to oppose the government's phaseout of traditional public utility vehicles, which transport group Piston said would kill the livelihood of small-time jeepney operators who cannot afford to join cooperatives.

The LTFRB previously extended the deadline to consolidate fleets to December 31 from June 30 after transport groups scored the government for its seemingly hurried implementation of the program.

Jeepney franchise consolidation, which is the first step in the government’s planned modernization of jeepneys, requires at least 15 franchise holders to form a cooperative, after which they would have to buy modern jeepneys that cost around P2.8 million each.  

After speaking to representatives of transport groups, Guadiz said the LTFRB will "help" drivers process loans needed to purchase modern vehicles.

He added that the regulatory board is now coming up with a memorandum circular that would create a route program that remains profitable for the drivers that will ply its roads.

“The financing can be subject to negotiations. If the (jeepney drivers’) needs are not met by government financing institutions, we can extend the deadline for the modernization program,” Guadiz said.  

Mody Floranda, Piston national president, said on March 4 that the LTFRB's deadline extensions are "not enough" to address the concerns of individual operators who stand to lose their franchises from the large corporations that will own the consolidated fleets. 

"We're calling for the total junking of the franchise consolidation scheme in favor of a mass-oriented modernization," Floranda said.

Transport strike 

At the same press conference, Guadiz appealed to transport groups holding the strike “to not magnify the problem” and to bring up their concerns through dialogues with the government instead.

He also said the LTFRB will “continue to educate” jeepney drivers and operators about the modernization program.

“We’re willing to adjust to your needs as long as we understand each other,” Guadiz said. “We have one common denominator, and that is the welfare of the commuting public.”

LTFRB officials also downplayed the impact of the transport strike on the availability of vehicles that can accommodate passengers on the road. 

In Metro Manila, only 10% of routes were “affected” by the strike, which was “addressed” by government-provided vehicles offering free rides, said LTFRB technical division head Joel Bolano said.

“If you will ask me about the nationwide situation, only two areas in the country have a situation similar to (the National Capital Region). One of these is (Calabarzon),” Bolano said in Filipino, claiming that the rest of the country still has a “normal” public transport situation as of 11 a.m. 

“We didn’t see a build-up (of passengers),” Bolano added.

Bolano added that out of 138 “rescue buses,” only 19 units were deployed by LTFRB to ferry passengers.

Guadiz said the LTFRB will continue to monitor the transportation situation until the end of the day to determine whether it will recommend that schools resume face-to-face learning.



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