House panel probes PUVMP agencies

Sheila Crisostomo - The Philippine Star
House panel probes PUVMP agencies
Members of Manibela stage a protest at the Office of the Ombudsman as they file a criminal case against Department of Transportation (DOTr) Secretary Jaime Bautista, Office of Transport Cooperative (OTC) Chairman Andy Ortega, and Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) members Teofilo Guadiz Jr., Engr. Liza Marie Paches, Atty. Mercy Jane Paras Leynes, and Atty. Robert Peig in relation to the controversies surrounding the jeepney modernization program on February 7, 2024.
STAR / Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — Claiming that the government’s public utility vehicle modernization program is going nowhere, House of Representatives transportation committee chair Rep. Romeo Acop has launched an investigation into the financial statements of the government agencies implementing the PUVMP.

Acop said he has ordered the Department of Transportation (DOTr), Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) and Office of Transport Cooperatives (OTC) to submit their account books on PUVMP or the phaseout of traditional jeepneys to the panel for scrutiny.

“Given all that has been revealed, with all the problems already mentioned, despite the agencies involved provided with funding throughout the years, may I require the LTFRB, OTC and DOTr to provide this committee the list of their expenditures?” he said in a recent hearing of the panel on PUVMP implementation.

Acop noted that the list should cover the expenses taken from these agencies’ annual budget since 2017, when the PUVMP was first implemented, until the present.

“We have to know how much government funds you have spent in the seven years that you have been doing this and if your spending is commensurate with your accomplishments,” he said.

The lawmaker wants the reports to include the funds for the modernization program, the fuel subsidy, the “Libreng Sakay (Free Ride)” program, vehicle subsidy, capacity building, and “other related programs connected to this modernization.”

Acop maintained that seven years into the program, only 10 percent of the routes have been rationalized.

On the other hand, only 112,801 of the 150,867 traditional jeepneys have been consolidated as of January 2024.

Acop said there has been no “definitive strategy” in PUVMP implementation, citing the DOTr’s failure to complete the route rationalization before the program was implemented.

The panel found that failure to do so has resulted in multiple transport cooperatives being assigned to the same route, affecting the viability of their operations. 

In the case of a transport cooperative in Camarines Sur, the Land Bank had withheld the release of its approved loans for 30 modern buses after finding out that there is another transport organization assigned to its route.

Acop said that the PUVMP could be unconstitutional as it violates the rights of traditional jeepney drivers to due process and to freely associate.

He made these remarks after transport leaders complained that they were forced to consolidate because their traditional jeepneys would be phased out by the government. 

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