A push to safer and mod­ern­ized pub­lic trans­port

Business World - - Special Feature - — Mark Louis F. Fer­rolino

The Land Trans­porta­tion Fran­chis­ing and Reg­u­la­tory Board (LTFRB) says on its Web site that the Pub­lic Util­ity Ve­hi­cle Mod­ern­iza­tion Pro­gram (PUVMP) is not only a ve­hi­cle mod­ern­iza­tion pro­gram, it is a com­pre­hen­sive sys­tem re­form that will en­tirely change the pub­lic land trans­porta­tion in­dus­try. “It fea­tures a reg­u­la­tory re­form and sets new guide­lines for the is­suance of fran­chise for road based pub­lic trans­port ser­vices.”

COM­PARED TO its neigh­bor­ing coun­tries like Malaysia and Sin­ga­pore, the Philip­pines has long been left be­hind when it comes to mod­ern­iza­tion of the mass trans­port sys­tem. Com­mut­ing nowa­days re­mains a strug­gle for many Filipinos, not only be­cause of the aw­ful traf­fic but also be­cuase of its po­ten­tial threats to pas­sen­gers’ health and safety.

With the aim of mak­ing the coun­try’s pub­lic trans­porta­tion sys­tem ef­fi­cient and en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly, the gov­ern­ment launched the Pub­lic Util­ity Ve­hi­cle Mod­ern­iza­tion Pro­gram (PUVMP). This is pur­suant to Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion’s (DoTr) Depart­ment Or­der No. 2017-011, the Om­nibus Guide­lines on the Plan­ning and Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of Pub­lic Road Trans­porta­tion Ser­vices and Fran­chise Is­suance.

PUVMP is a flag­ship pro­gram of the Duterte ad­min­is­tra­tion which en­vi­sions a re­struc­tured, mod­ern, well-man­aged, and en­vi­ron­men­tally sus­tain­able trans­port sec­tor, en­sur­ing drivers and op­er­a­tors have sta­ble, suf­fi­cient and dig­ni­fied liveli­hoods while com­muters get to their destinations quickly, safely and com­fort­ably.

The Land Trans­porta­tion Fran­chis­ing and Reg­u­la­tory Board (LTFRB) says on its Web site that the PUVMP is not only a ve­hi­cle mod­ern­iza­tion pro­gram, it is a com­pre­hen­sive sys­tem re­form that will en­tirely change the pub­lic land trans­porta­tion in­dus­try.

“It fea­tures a reg­u­la­tory re­form and sets new guide­lines for the is­suance of fran­chise for road based pub­lic trans­port ser­vices. It de­volved the func­tion of route plan­ning to the lo­cal gov­ern­ment units as they are more versed in the ter­rain and pas­sen­ger de­mand within their re­spec­tive ter­ri­to­rial ju­ris­dic­tion,” the LTFRB says.

The DOTr and LTFRB, to­gether with the Land Trans­porta­tion Of­fice, Of­fice of Trans­port Co­op­er­a­tives and other con­cerned agen­cies, are re­spon­si­ble in con­duct­ing a pi­lot im­ple­men­ta­tion in or­der to re­view and as­sess whether the new poli­cies are re­spon­sive and ef­fi­cient in achiev­ing the pro­gram’s in­tended out­comes.

Un­der the PUVMP, the lo­cal gov­ern­ment units are re­quired to sub­mit their own Lo­cal Pub­lic Trans­port Plan (LPTRP) as a pre-req­ui­site for the open­ing of pub­lic util­ity ve­hi­cle (PUV) fran­chises within their ju­ris­dic­tion.

To de­ter­mine the ap­pro­pri­ate mode, quan­tity and ser­vice char­ac­ter­is­tics of the pub­lic trans­port ser­vice in each cor­ri­dor, route ra­tio­nal­iza­tion stud­ies will be con­ducted. This will make the routes more re­spon­sive to the de­mand of the pas­sen­gers and en­sure that the hi­er­ar­chy of roads and modes of trans­porta­tion are fol­lowed.

Fleet mod­ern­iza­tion is among the ma­jor com­po­nents of the PUVMP. New ve­hi­cle stan­dards are be­ing de­vel­oped that is based on ex­ten­sive con­sul­ta­tions with con­cerned in­volved gov­ern­ment agen­cies, jeep­ney as­so­ci­a­tions and lo­cal and international man­u­fac­tur­ers. The mod­ern ve­hi­cles are de­signed to be environment-friendly, safe, se­cure and con­ve­nient with due con­sid­er­a­tion to per­sons-with-dis­abil­i­ties pas­sen­gers.

Last April, the DoTr held the Pub­lic Trans­port Mod­ern­iza­tion Expo: Moder­nong Sasakyan, Pro­gre­si­bong Bayan to show­case the mod­ern ve­hi­cles and in­form the pub­lic, es­pe­cially the op­er­a­tors and drivers, of the PUVMP’s ben­e­fits.

De­spite var­i­ous ad­van­tages that the mod­ern­iza­tion pro­gram brings, it was re­ceived neg­a­tively by sev­eral trans­port groups, say­ing the pro­gram is “anti-poor.” The cost of mod­ern jeep­neys – which about P1.2 mil­lion to P1.6 mil­lion – and the plan to re­place all PUVs aged 15 years or older have caused out­rage to many drivers and small op­er­a­tors.

Amid all the crit­i­cisms, DoTr Sec­re­tary Arthur P. Tu­gade clar­i­fied that the

pro­gram is not de­signed to even­tu­ally put PUVs out of busi­ness. He stressed that the PUVMP will help im­prove and strengthen the pub­lic road trans­port sec­tor.

“Nilili­wanag ko lang ho na ‘yung pro­gra­mang mod­ern­iza­tion of pub­lic util­ity is not anti-poor; it is not de­signed to phase out the jeep­neys or the jeep­ney busi­ness. It is ac­tu­ally de­signed to strengthen and guar­an­tee the prof­itabil­ity of the jeep­ney busi­ness,” Mr. Tu­gade said.

In a sep­a­rate state­ment, the DoTr also ex­plained that the pro­gram is long over­due.

“Past ad­min­is­tra­tions have long wanted to mod­ern­ize trans­porta­tion, but ev­ery time peo­ple wave flags say­ing that the pro­gram is anti-poor, we take a step back,” the agency said, adding that: “If not now, then when? Re­mem­ber that the same is­sues raised now hin­dered the mod­ern­iza­tion pro­gram be­fore. We will never be ready if we keep on look­ing for rea­sons to de­lay the project.”

The DoTr as­sured that the mod­ern­iza­tion pro­gram will hap­pen, not­ing that drivers and op­er­a­tors have only two op­tions: co­op­er­ate and ben­e­fit from this pro­gram, or op­pose and get left be­hind.

Con­sid­er­ing the clamor of drivers and op­er­a­tors who will be af­fected by the PUVMP, a spe­cial loan pro­gram with Land­bank and De­vel­op­ment Bank of the Philip­pines is be­ing pro­posed which will pro­vide ac­cess to ad­e­quate fund­ing.

In ad­di­tion, drivers will be given ac­cess to var­i­ous train­ings and so­cial sup­port pro­grams which will be of­fered to en­able them to be com­pe­tent, self-suf­fi­cient and well-equipped with the nec­es­sary tech­ni­cal knowl­edge and skills.

Mean­while, the DoTr rolled out around 200 mod­ern util­ity jeep­ney units to op­er­a­tors with fran­chises val­i­dated by LTFRB last July.

In the same month, two trans­port co­op­er­a­tives launched their PUV Mod­ern­iza­tion Pro­gram-com­pli­ant jeep­neys to ply new routes along Taguig and Pateros. The Taguig Trans­port Ser­vice Coop PUVs are ply­ing the Bagum­bayan (Taguig) to Pasig route via San Joaquin, while the Pateros-Fort Boni Trans­port Coop PUVs’ route is from Gate 3 of Fort Boni­fa­cio to Guadalupe Mar­ket.

Last June, 15 out of 35 mod­ern pub­lic util­ity jeep­ney units of the Se­nate Em­ploy­ees Trans­port Ser­vice Co­op­er­a­tive were rolled out and started to ply the route of Star City or CCP to PICC, GSIS or Se­nate to MOA to PITX and back.

The PUVMP was first launched in Ta­cloban City, Leyte in Jan­uary with the deployment of 45 so­lar-pow­ered jeep­neys.

ATTY. AILEEN LIZADA, LTFRB Board Mem­ber, with DoTr Un­der­sec­re­tary for Road Thomas Or­bos test drive an elec­tric minibus dur­ing the Pub­lic Trans­port Mod­ern­iza­tion Expo held last April at Philip­pine International Con­ven­tion Cen­ter in Pasay City.

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