MANILA — Cracks in the implementation of the government's jeepney modernization program were exposed Thursday during a Senate panel hearing, with lawmakers demanding explanation from the transport authorities that designed the controversial plan.
"Nakamatayan na ito ng ating mga kasama. Pero nandito pa rin tayo," said Sen. Grace Poe, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Public Services.
Poe said little has changed since the government launched the program in 2017 in a bid to make the country's public transportation system "efficient and environmentally-friendly."
Earlier this week, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and Land Transportation and Franchising Regulatory Board (LTFRB) extended until the end of the year the implementation of Memorandum Circular 2023-013 which compels jeepney drivers and operators to join a cooperative or corporation to continue their operation.
"We do recognize that there's room for improvement in the memorandum circular. That is why LTFRB and DOTr agreed that there should be clarifications with the MC hence the Dec. 31 extension," said Mark Pastor, DOTr undersecretary for Road Transport and Infrastructure.
According to transport regulators, the consolidation of operators into coops or corporations is not synonymous with phaseout, which would take place much later in the implementation of the 10-component modernization plan.
"Hindi po ito 'yung tinatawag na phaseout," Pastor clarified.
"What we are trying to seek at this stage is just the consolidation, wala pa po kami sa stage ng phaseout malayo pa po 'yan," added LTFRB chairman Teofilo Guadiz III.
But senators said the outcome of failing to consolidate is, in reality, a phaseout.
"Parang dinadaan nyo sa magandang salita na hindi naman phaseout, consolidation, lang, pero di ba the mere fact na hindi sila makapag-consolidate technically parang phinaseout niyo na rin," Sen. Nancy Binay said.
"Pag hindi na nakapag-consolidate wala ka nang provisional authority to operate... Pag hindi sila na-consolidate natanggal sila," Poe added.
PITFALLS OF COOPS
Mar Valbuena, national president of the transport group Manibela, cited experiences of some individual jeepney drivers and operators being misled by the cooperatives they chose to join.
"Kaya po namin tinututulan 'yung consolidation kasi may mga experience din po kami, may mga korporasyon at coop po na kapag nag-surrender ng prangkisa at sasakyan 'yung kanilang mga miyembre, walang binibigay na agreement between them. Wala pong trabaho ngayon 'yung aming kasama, san po sila pupulutin?" Valbuena said.
Valbuena said the failure of transport agencies to laymanize the provisions of the modernization program has led to drivers falling victim to bad cooperatives.
"Yun 'yung mahirap kung hindi mo talaga ibababa 'yung nilalaman ng programa, marami pong mapapaikot sa ibaba kung magagaling 'yung chairman o lider," Valbuena said.
"Walang security 'yung ating mga single operator. Kaya ino-opppose namin 'yung consolidation na yan," he added.
Poe said the case highlights the need for a mechanism to resolve disputes within the cooperatives.
"The framework of the cooperatives is so important to protect those surrendering their provisional authority to operate," Poe said.
In response, the DOTr said cooperatives are required to have a mediation and reconciliation committee to settle their internal disputes.
'HUMANE' MODERNIZATION PLAN
Poe said her "Just and Humane Public Utility Vehicles Modernization" bill will address issues of the current program and will "put it on the right track."
"Una sa lahat ang presyo ng mga modern jeepney. You don't need rocket science to know that a jeepney driver who earns roughly about P750 a day cannot afford a vehicle worth P2.3 million... Kulang na kulang ang P160,000 na subsidy ng gobyerno. Kaya naman sa ating panukala hindi dapat bababa sa 20 percent ang subsidiya ng gobyerno at 15 years to pay," Poe said.
Poe also criticized the LTFRB for demanding too much from the jeepney drivers while failing to deliver what's required of them under the program.
"Bakit pinipilit ang vehicle replacement kung hilaw pa ang ibang parte ng programa? Nasaan ang komprehensibong plano para sa route rationalization? LTFRB nagbibigay kayo ng mga deadline sa mga driver para mag-modernize ng kanilang jeep pero 'yung route rationalization ninyo hindi pa tapos. Para bang sinabi nyo sa kanila 'bumili na kayo ng ref, kama TV para sa bahay' pero wala naman silang lupang paglalagyan ng bahay na 'yon," Poe said.
President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. recently said that while he agreed with the modernization program's goal, its implementation should be reviewed.
Senate, Grace Poe, jeepney, PUV, transport, cooperatives, Mar Valbuena, Manibela, transportation, LTFRB, DOTr, Land Transportation and Franchising Regulatory Board, Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program, Department of Transportation, ANC, ANC promo