Despite the deadline for public utility vehicle (PUV) operators to consolidate operations or at least submit applications before the end of the year, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) gave them leeway to operate.
Under its Memorandum Circular No. 2023-052, which took effect on Dec. 25, 2023, the LTFRB issued guidelines on the implementation of the PUV Modernization Program beyond the deadline for consolidation application.
In a five-page circular, the agency stated that individual operators in routes without consolidated transport service entity (TSE) "shall be allowed to operate until 31 January 2024” so as "not to hamper the operation of public transportation routes without consolidated TSE."
During the one-month period, however, the LTFRB and its regional offices shall still be issuing show-cause orders in compliance with the Public Service Act.
To recall, the LTFRB issued Memorandum Circular No. 2023-51, which effectively revokes the permits or Provisional Authorities (PAs) issued to individual operators in all routes without consolidated Transport Service Entity (TSE), effective Jan. 1, 2024.
The units of PUV operators who failed to consolidate or apply for consolidation into a TSE before the deadline "shall not be confirmed for purposes of registration as public utility vehicles."
In its latest circular, the LTFRB said it may issue special permits to operate on routes without consolidated TSE, which shall be valid for three months after Jan. 31, 2024 to other consolidated TSEs.
"In no case shall the consolidated TSEs that elect to operate on routes without consolidated TSE reduce its operations to more than 60% of its NAU (number of authorized units) on its original routes," the circular read.
"A Selection Process, subject to subsequent issuance shall be conducted thereafter to determine the operators who will operate on this/these routes," according to the circular.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court ordered Thursday the Department of Transportation and LTFRB to comment on pending petitions seeking to stop the implementation of the PUV modernization program.
Certificate of Public Convenience
According to LTFRB data, 73.5% or 31,058 traditional jeepneys in Metro Manila have yet to be consolidated as part of the PUV Modernization Program.
Likewise, 66% of jeepneys were not consolidated in Calabarzon, and 63% in Zamboanga Peninsula.
As for the nationwide data, 30% of jeepney units have yet to comply with the consolidation deadline.
Under the modernization plan, jeepney drivers and operators are required to join or form cooperatives in a bid to replace traditional jeepneys with environment-friendly vehicles. Operators and drivers can apply for new franchises but as part of transport cooperatives.
President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. earlier this month said there would be no extension for the Dec. 31, 2023 deadline following a meeting with transport officials.
Meanwhile, under the LTFRB MC No. 2023-052, routes with consolidated TSEs shall retain franchise privileges on the routes they are currently plying, and shall continue to operate under their existing provisional authorities until December 2024 or upon the issuance of a Certificate of Public Convenience (CPCs), whichever comes first.
The CPCs issued to consolidated TSEs with brand-new Omnibus Franchising Guidelines-compliant units shall have a validity of seven years, while the CPCs issued to consolidated TSEs without brand-new or compliant units shall have a validity of five years.
The LTFRB reiterated, in its latest circular, that unconsolidated individual operators who failed to file application for consolidation before the deadline shall no longer be allowed to organize into a juridical entity or join existing consolidated TSEs.
The PUV Modernization Program, which started in 2017, aims to replace jeepneys with vehicles that have at least a Euro 4-compliant engine to lessen pollution and replace PUVs that are not roadworthy by Land Transportation Office (LTO) standards. — VDV/AOL, GMA Integrated News