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DOTr’s Bautista open to extending deadline on jeep operator consolidations

Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista on Saturday said he was open to extending the December 31, 2023 deadline for jeepney operators to consolidate or form cooperatives in compliance with the Public Utility Vehicle (PUV) Modernization Program.

“Kami ay willing na makipagusap. Naglagay tayo ng deadline na December 31. Kung tuloy-tuloy ang pag-uusap natin at makita natin na hindi pa kaya [to comply with the deadline], puwede natin i-extend hindi ba? Kaya nga dayalogo ang sagot dito sa ating mga issues,” Bautista told reporters on the sidelines of the Saturday News Forum in Quezon City.

(We're willing to talk. If we regularly discuss things and we see that meeting the December 31 deadline is not possible, we can extend it, right?  That's why discussing things is the answer to our problems.)

On Wednesday, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) announced it will again extend the June 30 deadline for jeepney operator to form cooperatives until the end of the year amid the planned week-long transport strike of some transport groups opposing the PUV Modernization Program. 

This is the sixth time the LTFRB has extended the deadline for jeepney operators to form cooperatives, a requirement under the PUV Modernization Program.

Under the program, jeepney drivers and operators are required to join or form cooperatives or corporations.

The program also aims to replace traditional jeepneys with vehicles powered by more environment-friendly fuels, particularly Euro-5 or Euro-6 compliant engines.

The Department of Transportation (DOTr) and the LTFRB clarified during the Senate public services hearing that traditional jeepneys can still operate as long they consolidate or become part of a cooperative. 

During the forum, Bautista said, “Gusto namin makita na nagkakaroon ng effort ang mga hindi pa nagko-consolidate.”

(We want to see those who have not yet consolidated make the effort.)

“Kailangan makita natin na sinusuportahan nila ang programa kaya sa ngayon gusto naming ilagay ang deadline sa December 31,” the Transportation chief said.

(We want to see them supporting the program. That's why, for now, we set the deadline for December 31.)

In a statement, Drivers United for Mass Progress and Equal Rights-Philippine Taxi Drivers Association (DUMPER-PTDA) party-list Representative Claudine Diana Bautista-Lim said that there will be no phase-out of traditional jeepneys come December 31.

“No less than Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista clarified that consolidation does not mean the end of the line for traditional jeepneys. The deadline set is for operators and drivers to either form or join cooperatives or incorporate themselves into collective juridical entities,” she said. 

Bautista-Lim, the vice chairperson of the House committee on transportation, said that even the message of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. was clear: that the Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP) needs to be "improved."

“We in government are sensitive to the plight of the transport sector. We are after the welfare not only of operators and drivers of PUVs but the riding public as well. Contrary to misinformation, ‘consolidation’ does not equate to phasing out traditional jeepneys,” she said.

Bautista said that more than 60% of operators had consolidated their operations.

“Merong mga region na halos 100% na ‘yung consolidation kaya nga sabi nga namin kung merong mga region na outside of Metro Manila na 100% nakapag-consolidate na there’s no reason na hindi natin magagawa sa other regions,” he said.

(There are regions where 100% of operators have consolidated. That's why we said that if there were regions outside of Metro Manila where 100% percent have consolidated, there's no reason we can't do it in other regions.)

On Friday, the DOTr chief also proposed that the LTFRB relax the requirements of the PUV Modernization Program to accommodate all operators and drivers.

As of February 25, 2022, DOTr's data showed that at least 1,156 cooperatives, corporations, and other consolidated companies with consolidated franchises operate 98,801 PUJ units.

Meanwhile, 406 consolidated entities are operating 14,289 franchised UVE units.

The DOTr noted that the Office of Transportation Cooperatives had accredited 1,715 transport service cooperatives with 261,853 members, consisting of operators and drivers, as of January 2023.

"A total of 6,814 units of modern PUVs already run a total of over 400 routes, according to the Transport chief," it said. — DVM/VBL, GMA Integrated News