CHR fears PUVMP may jeopardize 'right to sustainable livelihood'

James Relativo - Philstar.com
CHR fears PUVMP may jeopardize 'right to sustainable livelihood'
Traditional transport jeepneys wait for passengers at a terminal on Pedro Gil Street corner Agoncillo Street in Manila on January 2, 2024.
The STAR / Edd Gumban

MANILA, Philippines — While the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) recognizes the government's decision to make public utility vehicles safer and more eco-friendly, the agency fears that it might do more harm than good.

After the December 31 deadline for PUV drivers and operators, unconsolidated jeepneys and UV Express units only have until January 31 to operate in routes with less than 60% consolidation rate.

"Adhering strictly to rigid consolidation deadlines may jeopardize PUV operators' right to a sustainable livelihood... the most serious concern is job loss as a result of the program's entry barriers," said the CHR in a statement on Friday.

"The government set a ceiling of P80,000 in subsidies per unit despite the updated jeepneys costing upwards of P1 million does not alleviate fears that the program will simply push poorer operators out, allowing well-financed corporations to take over."

While the commission recognizes the need to transition to a more sustainable and safer mode of transportation, majority of the program's financial burden will fall on drivers on operators — the vast majority of whom belong to vulnerable sectors.

Transport group PISTON earlier noted that modern jeepneys and minibuses could go as high as P2.8 million per unit, a cost that could plunge operators deep in debt. 

While local manufacturers like Francisco Motors offer modern PUV options priced at P985,000, this is still way more expensive compared to traditional jeepneys units that range from P200,000 to P600,000.

The CHR calls on the government, particularly relevant agencies, to take appropriate steps to address the potential loss of income of operators and to efficiently subsidize the program.

"While we believe that modernisation and development are legitimate government goals, they must be pursued without violating fundamental human rights," the commission said.

"The potential consequences, such as pushing these drivers and their families into poverty, highlight the need for a balanced and considerate approach in implementing modernisation efforts to ensure they align with wider societal welfare."

Resolution to urge Marcos to reconsider deadline

The House Committee on Transportation chairperson Antipolo City 2nd district Rep. Romeo Acop earlier confirmed that they intend to approve a resolution asking President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to reconsider the December 31 deadline.

Nevertheless, Andy Ortega, the chairperson of the Office of Transport Cooperatives, said that there would be no further extensions for the consolidation deadline.

"First of all, we respect what ever the appeal or position of our lawmakers right now," said Ortega in Filipino in a Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) press conference last Thursday.

"On the part of the [Department of Transportation] family... the decision of the president is already firm on the December 31 deadline. The deadline has been successful. It has reached a decent number. A big jump from the start of 2023."

Over 76% of PUVs (145,721 units) have already consolidated after the consolidation deadline. However, it means that another 24% (46,017 units) remain unconsolidated.

More than 100,000 Sangguniang Kabataan officials earlier signed a unity statement opposing the consolidation plan under the PUVMP, warning of a possible mass transportation crisis for millions of commuters.

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