Several senators on Tuesday called on the national government to hear out the concerns of the public utility vehicle (PUV) drivers and operators regarding the PUV modernization program amid the planned one-week transport holiday.
In a statement, Senate public service committee chairperson Grace Poe said the Department of Transportation (DOTr) should find a realistic and viable solution to the concerns of the PUV drivers and operators.
“The government should not take for granted the complaints of our drivers and should keep the line of communications open. We reiterate our call to the DOTr and the LTFRB to submit an update on the modernization program. We must see where it is now and whether the targets are achievable,” she said.
Poe said she expects DOTr Secretary Jaime Bautista to personally meet with the various transport groups as soon as possible to hear their grievances. She also hopes Bautista would propose a solution that can avert the impending transport strike.
Several transport groups on Monday announced they will be holding a transport holiday in the National Capital Region and Central Luzon from March 6 to 12.
Senator Nancy Binay, meanwhile, said she was saddened to see that the government seemingly does not have a plan for those who will be affected by the PUV modernization program.
“Masakit tanggapin na hinayaan na lang ng gobyerno na unti-unting mawalan ng kabuhayan ang ating mga jeepney driver sa kabila ng phaseout,” she said.
(It hurts to accept that the government just let our jeepney drivers gradually lose their livelihood because of the phaseout.)
“Taon-taon lagi nating inire-raise ang isyu ng unutilized budget ng PUV modernization ng DOTr, pero hanggang ngayon wala pa ring linaw kung bakit ‘di nagagamit. Actually, since ni-launch ito noong 2017—and after six years—walang pa ring paglalagyang industriya, at walang ino-offer na alternatives na kayang mag-absorb sa mga apektadong transport worker.”
(Every year, we always raise the issue on the unused budget of DOTr's PUV modernization, but until now, there is still no clarity as to why it is not being used. Actually, since it was launched in 2017—and after six years—there is still no industry that would cater to this, and no alternatives are being offered to the affected transport workers.)
While acknowledging the need to modernize the PUVs, Binay stressed the need for “comprehensive and concrete programs based on a just transition” considering the importance of the transport sector.
For his part, Senator Chiz Escudero said the government should review the phase-out policy, time table, financial package, and subsidy and assistance to affected drivers and operators.
“This was hastily planned, haphazardly implemented and offered no safety nets whatsoever to the drivers and operators. It will not benefit anyone, especially the drivers who earn daily,” he said.
Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III also said the government should rethink the financing plan about the modernization program down to the smallest detail.
He also said the drivers should not be forced to participate in the program if they could not afford to do so.
“Kung mukhang hindi talaga kakayanin ng mga owner-tsuper ang pagbayad sa mga sinasabing bagong units sa pamamagitan ng pamamasada, ay ‘wag nang ituloy ito kasi hindi naman na-propose ‘yang programa na ‘yan para lamang bigyan ng dagdag na pabigat ang mga drivers ng jeepney at ang taumbayan,” he said.
(If it seems that the owner-drivers could not pay for the said new units, then let’s not push this anymore because that program was not proposed just to give an extra burden to the drivers and our people.)
Several jeepney drivers have appealed to the government to give them more time to shift to modern jeepneys, but the LTFRB has given operators only until June 30 to comply after extending the deadline several times.—AOL, GMA Integrated News