MANILA – Malacañang on Monday said the government remains committed to the modernization of public utility vehicles despite strong opposition from transport groups, saying the program is "long overdue."
Transport group PISTON held a transport strike Monday to protest the government's modernization program, which it said could mean the phaseout of jeepneys. This has forced the government to suspend classes and work in government offices.
“There were several attempts in the past to modernize the public transport system but these have been thwarted due to similar transport strikes, which unfortunately resulted in an outdated public transport system,” Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in a statement.
PISTON is protesting the the PUV modernization program, saying this would bury jeepney drivers in debt as they would not be able to afford the modernized jeepneys.
The group urged the government to postpone the modernization program until it finds a "nationalized, efficient and affordable" framework.
Abella, meanwhile, claimed it is only PISTON which is opposing the modernization program. The LTFRB, for its part, accused the leaders of today’s transport strike of destabilizing the government.
“It is worth mentioning that, with the exception of left-leaning PISTON, the PUVMP has gained the support of different public transport groups,” Abella said.
Finance officials have allocated a P2.2 billion subsidy for public utility vehicle modernization program, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board earlier said.
“The government, through the LTFRB, will continue with the discussions, consultations, and further collaboration with members of the public transport sector, particularly in explaining the financial scheme available to PUJ operators and drivers who wish to avail of new units through financing of government financial institutions,” Abella said.
The presidential spokesperson also said the government is prepared to deal with the transport strike.
He said the LTFRB has engaged the services of 35 city buses in Metro Manila, in addition to the transport services provided by the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine Coast Guard, the Department of Public Works and Highways, and local government units.
Six designated areas have been identified by the MMDA for free rides. These pickup points include Commonwealth Avenue, Luneta Grandstand, Orense Guadalupe, SM Marikina, MCU and HK Plaza, Abella said.