No extension for PUV consolidation deadline after 2-day strike announcement

James Relativo - Philstar.com
No extension for PUV consolidation deadline after 2-day strike announcement
Colorful traditional jeepneys along with their modernized versions wait for passengers at the corner of EDSA and Aurora Boulevard in Quezon City on Aug. 30, 2022.
The STAR / Miguel de Guzman, File

MANILA, Philippines — President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. announced that there will be no more extension of the December 31 deadline for public utility vehicle (PUV) consolidation.

This comes after progressive transport group Piston announced an upcoming transport strike from December 14 to 15 to protest the impending phaseout of traditional jeepneys and UV Express units.

"Today, we held a meeting with transport officials, and it was decided that the deadline for the consolidation of public utility vehicles (PUV) operators will not be extended," said Marcos on Tuesday.

"Currently, 70% of all operators have already committed to and consolidated under the Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP)," he added.

The government stood firm on its deadline after the Land Transportation Franchising Regulatory Board (LTFRB) earlier gave into some of Piston's demands such as waiving penalties, extending franchise validity to five years, and removing certain challenging parts of the Omnibus Franchising Guidelines.

According to transport groups, those with individual franchises who fail to consolidate before 2024 will no longer be allowed to operate, plunging thousands of drivers operators into unemployment.

Last November, the Department of Transportation claimed that they have already clarified "misconceptions" about the phaseout of traditional jeeps, emphasizing the provision of financial assistance for cooperatives.

This aligns with the DOTr's initiative to shift traditional jeepneys to eco-friendly alternatives like minibuses and electric vehicles. Yet, transport groups argued that these vehicles can cost up to P2.8 million.

Transport Secretary Jaime Bautista earlier tried to "correct" talks about a possible phaseout, despite LTFRB chairperson Teofilo Guadiz III's acknowledgment that a jeepney phaseout would be the "last stage" of the PUV modernization program.

"We cannot let the minority cause further delays, affecting majority of our operators, banks, financial institutions, and the public at large," Marcos said.

"Adhering to the current timeline ensures that everyone can reap the benefits of the full operationalization of our modernized public transport system. Hence, the scheduled timeline will not be moved," he added.

Strike continues; 70% data 'misleading'

Piston said that they will go ahead with the planned transport strike, saying that DOTr and LTFRB themselves said that 70% of public utility jeeps and 60% of UV Express units would not be allowed to operate should the December 31 deadline push through.

"This is equivalent to 60,000 drivers and 25,000 operators that would operators woud add to the growing unemployment in the National Capital Region alone," said the group in Filipino on Tuesday.

"Because of Marcos Jr.'s latest announcement, there will only be more reasons to carry on with the strike," they added.

The announcement, according to them, is untimely with less than two weeks before Christmas.

Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), on the other hand, claimed that Marcos' 70% consolidation data is misleading, saying that it's an aggregate of all types of PUVs nationwide, including buses.

The labor group said that only 26% of jeepneys and 36% of UV Express units are consolidated in Metro Manila.

Piston urged JODAs and commuters to join mobilizations against imminent deadline and franchise consolidation.

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