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DOTr, LTFRB: Traditional jeepneys can still operate beyond deadline if they join coops

Traditional jeepneys can still operate beyond the set deadline as long as they join the transport cooperatives, officials of the Department of Transportation and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board told a Senate panel Thursday.

DOTr Undersecretary Mark Steven Pastor and LTFRB chairman Teofilo Guadiz III made the remark at the Senate public services hearing on the  reported phaseout of jeepneys.

"'Yung in-issue na LTFRB [memorandum circular] 2023-13 pertains to the end of consolidation period, hindi po ito 'yung tinatawag na phase out. It is not," Pastor said.

"Consolidation po, even if you are a traditional jeep so long as you are consolidated tatakbo pa rin po kayo," he added.

He said the deadline for consolidation was moved from June 30 to December 31 to clarify the apparent misunderstanding on the wordings of the memorandum circular.

"Pag nag-end po ng consolidation, hindi po ibig sabihin the following day modern jeeps na po ang tatakbo. Ang objective lang po ng consolidation is to have one entity running the route so it can be optimized," he said.

He explained that this policy aims to prevent "on-street competition" among jeepney drivers and operators.

"Ang pinakaproblema po...'yung mga... single jeep operator nagkakarerahan sa ruta 'yan. That's what we are trying to eliminate, 'yung on street competition para po ma-optimize 'yung ruta," he said.

The same position was explained by Guadiz to the panel.

"The deadline for December 31 is not for the phaseout of the jeepneys. The deadline is only for the consolidation, urging the drivers to come together, consolidate as one and start the formation of a coop in pursuit of the modernization," Guadiz said.

"After the consolidation, there would be other stages of this modernization scheme. One of which is probably introducing to the bank for a study on their route and of the funding. The phaseout will be the last stage," he explained.

But senators argued that the consolidation still means phaseout for jeepneys who cannot comply with the deadline on consolidation.

Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva and Senator Grace Poe cited the LTFRB memorandum circular which indicated that the certificate of public convenience of operators who fail to join the existing consolidated entity will be reverted to the state.

Senator Nancy Binay sensed that the LTFRB is just sugarcoating the term phaseout.

"Kasi, madam chair, parang dinadaan niya d'on sa magandang salita na hindi naman phaseout e. Consolidation pero the mere fact na hindi sila makapag-consolidate, technically, parang phinase out ninyo na sila e," she said.

Guadiz insisted that consolidation does not mean a phaseout.

"Hindi po, madam chair. Hindi po sila matatanggal. For now, we are trying to help them consolidate and we will continue to assist them and we will see to it that no one is left behind. That is my commitment and the commitment of my agency," he said.

Upon the interpellation of Binay, Guadiz said around 65,000 jeepneys are still not consolidated with a cooperative.

For the sixth time, the LTFRB has extended the deadline for jeepney operators to form cooperatives, a requirement under the PUV modernization program.

This program aims to replace traditional jeepneys with vehicles powered by more environment-friendly fuels.

The LTFRB announced the decision the same day President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said the planned modernization of jeepneys is not "urgent" and amid the week-long holiday being planned by transportation groups.—AOL, GMA Integrated News