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LTFRB invites transport group to dialogue after request for new deadline

Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) chairman Teofilo Guadiz III on Thursday indicated the LTFRB's openness to a dialogue after a transport group asked for an extension of the deadline for PUV operators to consolidate into cooperatives or corporations.

This developed during the Senate public service committee hearing on the expected phaseout of traditional jeepneys.

At the latter part of the hearing, Bulacan Transport representative Danilo Ignacio asked Guadiz to extend the deadline for the consolidation of jeepneys to April 2024 despite the LTFRB's decision to move the target date from June 30 to December 31, 2023.

"Secretary Guadiz, nakikiusap po kami, tiklop tuhod po kaming nakikiusap. Para po medyo kunmita naman kami tutal kung ma-phase out ang jeep namin e nakabawi kami nang kaunti," Ignacio said.

Guadiz said members of the public transport group were welcome to discuss Ignacio's request.

"My office is always open. Pumunta ho kayo bukas at pagusapan po natin yang hinihingi niyong deadline," Guadiz said.

However, Manibela transport group representative Mar Valbuena said they are opposing any deadline set by the government as the end goal of the modernization program is a jeepney phaseout.

"Kahit anong deadline po 'yung ibigay natin, sa dulo phaseout pa rin po. Di po ba? Kahit i-consolidate po namin yan nang mas maaga, sa dulo kailangan mo pa rin magpalit kahit five years pa po siya," Valbuena said.

He said the consolidation of jeepneys will only benefit those operators with "viable" routes.

"Bakit di po natin nilabas dito yung mga cooperatives na nalugi? Bakit hindi po natin sila naimbitahan para ipaliwanag naman na yung ruta nila, napilitan sila, kasi hindi viable," he said.

"Ipit na kami e. di po ba wala kaming choice kundi sumali or hindi sumali," he went on.

At the early part of the hearing, Guadiz explained that the deadline for the consolidation was set to urge the drivers to form a cooperative in pursuit of modernization.

Meanwhile, the DOTr explained that the consolidation is meant to have one entity running the route so it can be optimized

Valbuena also claimed that there is a "mafia" in this consolidation stage of the PUV modernization program.

"Isa pong malaking mafia rito. May mga regional offices po siguro hindi naman lahat...dalawa, tatlo na entity yung tatanggapin pero may bidding. Magkano? Five million pesos...Bakit po may bidding? Bakit po may ganon? Kaya po hindi ako aatras hangga't hindi titigil ang mafia na ito," Valbuena said.

He did not disclose any names but he said he knows which regions are involved.

"Yung consolidation, may kaakibat po kasing korapsyon. Hirap na hirap na po yung aming mga kasamahan sa transport sector," he said.

Before Valbubena aired his concerns, Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista disclosed that he invited the former to discuss his issues but the transportation group representative did not show up.

"In spite of that, I am willing to sit down with him and with anybody who would like to clarify, ask questions," Bautista said.

Bautista also maintained the need to impose a deadline on the consolidation of jeepneys into one entity.

The Transportation chief made the remark after Senator Grace Poe, who presided over the hearing, urged the LTFRB to stop setting deadlines on this since there are still many implementation problems that the agency should address.

"At the end of this hearing, talagang hihingin ko na i-extend niyo nang mas matagal or indefinitely kasi ang dami niyong problema talaga," she said.

"Ayusin niyo muna yung mga problema ninyo, yung coordination with the LGU lahat yan bago kayo magbigay ng deadline. Para sa akin dapat open-ended. Wag niyo muna bigyan ng deadline...Hindi pa talaga kayo ready by December," Poe said.

For Bautista, the deadline for the consolidation is important because it is a key step in making the PUV modernization program successful.

"Sa tinging ko po kailangan magkaroon ng deadline. Hindi pwedeng maging open-ended po ito kasi kung di tayo magbibigay ng deadline, walang susunod. Hindi po natin mai-implement itong ating PUV modernization program if we don't impose deadlines," he said.

Although he admitted that it is not a perfect program right now, Bautista said they can resolve it with the right communication and dialogue with stakeholders.

"Ang Department of Transportation ay makikipagdayalogo sa lahat, iexplain po namin ang modernization program, i-explain po namin 'yung 10 components ng modernization program. Kaya lang po hinihiling ko lang na sana ituloy natin 'yung consolidation. Ito po ay 'yung isa sa mga pinakaimportanteng component ng ating modernization program...'yan po ang palagay kong magiging trigger para magkaroon tayo ng successful modernization program for the land sector," he said.

For the sixth time, the LTFRB 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 that the planned modernization of jeepneys is not "urgent" amid the planned week-long holiday being planned by transportation groups. —NB, GMA Integrated News

Tags: news, nation, LTFRB