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MANILA, Philippines – Jeepney drivers and operators have until December 31, 2023 to consolidate into a cooperative or corporation. If they don’t, they’ll be off the road and out of a job, according to public officials who deliberated on the budget of the Department of Transportation (DOTr).
“After that, they would lose their franchise, and opportunity to ply those routes will be canceled, as far as the deadline is concerned,” Valenzuela City 2nd District Representative Eric Martinez said on Tuesday, September 26 when asked what happens to operators who fail to consolidate.
For drivers and operators who may lose their livelihood by the end of the year, the government plans to hold training sessions to help them find another job.
“One of the options is they will be trained by DOLE (Department of Labor and Employment) through TESDA (Technical Education and Skills Development Authority) so they can find alternative jobs. The next steps will be they will be given jobs by DOLE after their training from TESDA. That will be the mode of exit,” Martinez told the lower house of Congress.
It is, however, unclear where the government will get funds to continue these support programs in the long run. Under the DOTr’s proposed 2024 budget, there was no budget at all allocated for the modernization program. (READ: Jeepney modernization to continue in 2024 even without a budget)
The DOTr also admitted that it was quite literally running out of personnel to implement the Public Utility Vehicle (PUV) Modernization Program, with more than half of their personnel involved in the program now having their contracts terminated.
“Konti na lang po ang meron, at ito po ‘yung nagko-coordinate on the ground for the remaining budget na natititra,” DOTr Undersecretary Anneli Lontoc said during a House budget briefing on September 4.
(Under our remaining budget, we only have a few people left, and these are the ones that coordinate the program on the ground.)
Still, transportation officials are “confident” that they can continue the program and get operators to consolidate before the year-end deadline. There’s also a roughly P200 million “continuing fund” for social support programs related to PUV Modernization available in 2024.
Lawmakers have expressed support in requesting for a bigger budget allocation to fund the modernization program in 2024.
What’s the progress on consolidation?
Currently, around 70% of individual jeepneys have consolidated into cooperatives or corporations.
The DOTr has been trying to get individual operators to consolidate since 2017. But since then, the deadline has been moved multiple times. In fact, the December 31 deadline is an extension of an earlier one set on June 30 granted after some transportation groups threatened a weeklong strike. (READ: ‘Welga kami!’ Transport strike spotlights jeepney modernization issues)
“The deadline has been deferred four times, but this time we want to stick to the deadline of December 31,” Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista said during a Senate hearing on the DOTr’s budget.
“We want the operators to join a cooperative or a corporation so that they can operate more efficiently,” he said on Tuesday.
Consolidation is only the first step. After this, jeepney operators will then be required to upgrade their fleet to meet newly set standards. For many, this will involve buying pricey modern jeepneys.
Transportation officials said that they are in the process of reviewing the Omnibus Franchising Guideline, which governs the PUV Modernization Program. This should conclude by the end of October. – Rappler.com