MANILA - With a regular route, regular pay, and benefits for drivers, and the promise of bigger earnings for operators what's not to like under the government's public utility vehicle (PUV) modernization program?
Members of various transport cooperatives expressed this at a meeting in Quezon City on Friday as they encouraged other drivers and transport groups to band together in the move toward the phase-out of current PUVs.
"Yung agam-agam nila hindi puwedeng hindi sila kumita at madi-displace sila. Kasi sino pa kukunin naming driver kundi ang nariyan na? So walang mawawala sa programa, " said Vicente Balao, spokesperson of the National Federation of Transport Cooperatives.
"Kung alam lang ng operator at ng driver, hindi sila hihindi sa programa."
Groups that are implementing a pilot run of the modernization program in areas of Metro Manila praised the benefits of its application, especially under the cooperative system.
The modernization program mandates transport franchise holders in an area, whether group or individual, to consolidate into a cooperative and share the route.
"Mawawalan ka ng sakit ng ulo. Hindi problema ang maintenance, may driver na darating," said Freddie Hernandez, chairman of the Taguig Transport Cooperative.
Operators will be required under the program to buy modern units which would cost up to P1 million for gas-powered jeepneys and close to P2 million for e-jeeps.
The government would be subsidizing P80,000 per unit and would offer loans to cover the rest, to be paid over the next 7 years at 6 percent interest.
Balao said the purchase and payment of the vehicles would be done through the cooperative.
Under the cooperative, operators would be considered investors with a steady income. Drivers would also earn a fixed rate with overtime and given social security and health benefits.
The NFTC has listed 484 transport cooperatives around the country, many of which have formed in the year since the modernization program was started in 2017.
Hernandez said the cooperatives were privileged that they were the groups chosen to implement the program.
"Sinusubo sa atin, ayaw pa natin, baka masayang. Isipin natin para sa kapakanan natin ito at para sa Pilipino," he said.
Still, other transport groups continue to oppose the implementation of the modernization program, saying most of them are not ready.
For Jun Magno of the Stop and Go coalition, the government should first address other concerns such as the rationalization of commute routes, heavy traffic, and even corruption in transport agencies.
He added there was no infrastructure in place for the modernization.
"May nakahanda ba ang gobyerno para sa terminal na off street at depot? Wala. Sino magpoprovide? Kami rin. San kami kukuha niyan? Gaano kataas at kamahal ang lote na aarkilahin ngayon. San namin kukunin yan, sa pasahero pa rin? So may problema, hindi talaga sila nakahanda," he said.
Magno expressed concern that the cooperatives might fail in handling the costs of the switch to modern jeepneys.
However, cooperative heads allayed fears among their members that the loans might take long to be paid off.
Since cooperatives would manage their own route without competition, they would benefit from the regular patronage, Hernandez said.
Meanwhile, the cooperatives opposed the recommendation given at a Senate hearing on the modernization program last Monday to extend the transition period for the modernization into 5 years.
Transport officials said this week that there will be no let up to the program, which hopes to finish the transition to modern jeepneys by June 2020--3years after its launch.
"We shall continue with the PUV Modernization Program. For the sake of this country, let us have political will. No delays, no postponement, let us get this done, " Transport Secretary Arthur Tugade said.
Balao admitted that the transition could take more than even 5 years to convert all units to modernized jeeps, but said that it should nonetheless be started.
"Ang nasasaktan, yung mga mananakay e. Kasi imbes na bigyan mo ng comfortable na serbisyo, kasi aircon yan and everything, and hindi na siya polluting gaya ng lumang sasakyan, ba't mo patatagalin? Ano'ng dahilan?" he said.