SENATORS on Tuesday supported transport groups’ call for a postponement of the government’s modernization program, particularly the phaseout of traditional jeepneys and vans this year.
Senator Mary Grace S. Poe-Llamanzares, chair of the public services committee, filed Senate Resolution 507 expressing the Senate’s “strong” urging for the government to defer the planned phaseout of all traditional jeepneys and UV Express vans.
The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) initially set the phaseout by June 30 but moved this to end-December, provided jeepney and van operators and drivers consolidate through cooperatives or other formal groupings.
Those who fail to consolidate by June 30 will lose their license to operate.
“The LTFRB should not coerce PUV (public utility vehicle) operators into complying with their guidelines without addressing the sector’s concerns, particularly on the high capital costs of acquiring modern jeepneys,” Ms. Poe-Llamanzares said.
Transport group Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operators Nationwide (Piston) has said that the cost of acquiring a modern jeepney can go up to P2.8 million, “burying small-time operators deep in debt.”
Citizens’ group Lawyers for Commuters Safety and Protection said the phaseout will affect around 50,000 jeepneys and lead to a transport crisis.
Several transport groups nationwide have announced plans to hold a week-long strike against the phaseout beginning March 6.
Transportation Secretary Jaime J. Bautista, at the sidelines of the Maritime Industry Summit 2023 on Tuesday, told reporters that they were prepared for a dialogue.
“In fact, tomorrow afternoon, we may talk again so that we can discuss whatever the issues are, what needs to be corrected if there’s anything that we need to do,” he said in a mix of English and Filipino.
“The deadline set by the LTFRB is for consolidation. That means, we are inviting those who are not members of cooperatives or a group that they join because we will be able to help them more if they are part of the group,” he added.
The government is offering loans and alternative livelihood programs for those who will be affected by the transport modernization program.
When asked if the deadline can be changed, Mr. Bautista said: “Everything can be discussed, when we talk about an issue, we can address it.”
“We will listen to the grievances of every stakeholder,” he added.
Piston has said that they are not against modernization but are seeking a “just transition” process.
“Government should review the phase-out policy, timetable, financial package and subsidy and assistance to affected drivers and operators,” Senator Francis Joseph “Chiz” G. Escudero said in a statement on Tuesday.
He called the program “hastily planned” and “haphazardly implemented” as it offered “no safety nets whatsoever to the drivers and operators.”
Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Martin “Koko” D. Pimentel III, in a separate statement, told government to think carefully about the financing plan “down to the smallest detail.” — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan