DOTr, LTFRB Urge Protesters to Support PUV Modernization Program
While the country is experiencing the two-day transport strike, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) urged the protesters to discuss the issues pertaining to PUV Modernization Program (PUVMP). The two-day transport strike–held yesterday, October 17 and today, October 18–was initiated by jeepney drivers and operators transport group Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Operaytor Nationwide (PISTON).
In its statement, the government agencies “appealed for patience and understanding to those who may be affected” by it.
“The DOTr would also like to express its utmost dismay over PISTON’s refusal to discuss with government their issues on the PUV Modernization Program (PUVMP), and its consistent appeal to public sentiment through false propaganda and misinformation,” the DOTr noted.
The transport agency claimed that most of the organizations backing PISTON would reveal that these are mostly non drivers and/or non operators of public utility vehicles, “as shown by PISTON’s open alliance with the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU).”
“Hence, we question PISTON’s true motives in staging these protests and demonstrations. How can they hold a legitimate protest when in fact, majority of the protesters do not represent the public transport sector?”
“In PISTON’s 36 years of existence, when did they ever agree or give their support to a proposed reform on our public transportation sector?”
Further, the department raised speculations on the motive of the groups.
“These further leave us these questions: Do they [PISTON] really have the higher interest of the riding public and the best interest of jeepney drivers and operators if they oppose each and every program aimed at improving public transportation? Or is PISTON disagreeing just for the sake of disagreement, in order to justify its existence as a militant and leftist group?” the DOTr stated.
A Case of Misunderstanding?
The agency noted PISTON’s concerns such as the alleged lack of consultation in coming up with DOTr Department Order (DO) No. 2017-011, and that the PUVMP is anti-poor because of the high cost of acquiring new units.
The department explained that on the issue of purported lack of consultation, both the DOTr and LTFRB conducted numerous consultations and dialogues with various stakeholders, such as public utility vehicle (PUV) operators and drivers across the country, as well as with organized transport groups and local government units.
“These consultations were organized before, during, and even after DO 2017-011 was signed. In fact, in some of the initial regional consultations, PISTON members were present and participated in the discussions. It was only when the PUVMP had already taken shape and gained support from transport groups and cooperatives nationwide that PISTON disengaged with the government and refused to dialogue.”
“Nonetheless, consultations with LGUs for their local transport route plans, as well as with organized transport groups and various transport cooperatives across the country, are still being conducted until present.”
On the issue of PUVMP being anti-poor because of the high cost of new jeepney units, the joint statement said that “PISTON is clearly misinformed.”
“A major component of the PUVMP is the financial scheme available to PUJ operators and drivers who wish to avail of new units through financing of government financial institutions, Development Bank of the Philippines and Land Bank of the Philippines. The financing package for acquisition of new units endorsed by the Department of Finance (DOF) is very generous–as low as 5-percent equity, 6-percent interest rate, and a repayment period as long as 7 years.”
“On top of this, government will offer as high as P80,000 subsidy per unit to cover the equity payment. Moreover, because of zero or low maintenance cost of new units in the first 3 years, savings thereon will be translated to income, with an increased confidence and capability to meet loan obligations. All business models based on actual studies ensure profitability on the drivers/operators, even if they avail of the financial loan package offered by government financial institutions.”
The two agencies reiterate PUVMP is about modernizing PUVs “towards a more efficient, safe, comfortable, PWD-friendly and environmentally-sensitive public commuting.”
Moreover, the transport agencies noted that the pollution “caused by antiquated PUJs has not only put a heavy toll on the environment, but has already become a serious public health issue.”
“Also, the alarming statistics of deaths and road crashes brought by dilapidated jeepneys and buses, obsolete systems and ill-practices has to be stopped. We need to avoid the repeat of road tragedies like the one that happened in Tanay, Rizal and in Carranglan, Nueva Ecija, which claimed dozens of lives and injured many more.”
They also claimed that the program is long overdue, citing that several similar attempts “have been thwarted due to similar transport strikes, protests and harassment.”
Furthermore, the DOTr said that with the exception of PISTON, the PUVMP “gained the overwhelming support of different public transport groups”.
Among those who threw their support are the Federation of Jeepney Operators and Drivers Association of the Philippines (FEJODAP), Alliance of Concerned Transport Organizations (ACTO), Pangkalahatang Sanggunian Manila and Suburb Drivers Association Nationwide Inc., (PASANG MASDA), Land Transportation Organization of the Philippines (LTOP), Alliance of Transport Operators and Drivers Association of the Philippines (ALTODAP) and Stop and Go Coalition.
Aside from that, the DOTr “overwhelmingly majority of provincial transport cooperatives all over the country” is rallying behind the said program.
“This shows that should reason and rational minds prevail, discussions between the government and public transport groups on the improvement of our public transport system can be fruitful and productive.”
In line with the move they are calling upon the leadership of PISTON to “open their doors to discussion for them to truly understand and appreciate the PUVMP.”
Lastly, the statement also claimed that the DOTr and LTFRB are “open to more healthy discussions and further collaboration with groups and organizations who want to engage, learn and contribute to the development of the PUV Modernization program.”