"We are still working on preparations for the timeline. We are saying it's going to be before the end of the year. You will see how the PUV (public utility vehicle) modernization program will come into being with the pilot programs," said Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) Chairman Martin Delgra III during a House briefing on Thursday, October 19.
The House committee on transportation called for the meeting with transport authorities following a 2-day strike by jeepney operators and drivers over the government's plan to replace PUVs that are 15 years or older.
Department of Transportation (DOTr) Assistant Secretary Mark de Leon said the modernization program is part of a bigger plan to improve the country's public transportation system.
"Primordial to this PUV modernization is the route rationalization study," added De Leon.
In the study, experts will determine the best mode of public transportation based on the existing – and projected – demand and use of commuters. The Metro Manila draft report is expected by November this year. Studies for Cebu City and Davao City are also ongoing.
Depending on the results of the study, some existing franchises may be combined. This means that before the PUV modernization program can even be rolled out, the route rationalization study must be completed first.
Several lawmakers pressed transportation officials to give a specific timeline for the rollout, but they did not get clear answers.
"Is it the right time to present this when the details are not yet complete?" said Caloocan City 2nd District Representative Edgar Erice.
Are we ready?
"You can't give very vague timelines [since] when you presented it, it's as if it's ready to be rolled out," said Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate.
Delgra did not immediately answer the question, instead insisting that "we need to sacrifice... for the mananakay (commuter)."
"If we think of kabuhayan, 'yung sakit ng gutom, malakas masyado, but do we understand that every day, the mananakay is sacrificing on the road? Sila 'yung mga mahihirap na tinutugunan natin," he said.
(If we think of livelihood, the pain of hunger is strong, but do we understand that every day, the commuter is sacrificing on the road? The commuters are the poor that we are helping.)
Later on, Delgra eventually admitted that they are still working on the timeline.
The implementation will still be tested through pilot areas in Taguig City, Pateros, and Pasay City.
Asked how many jeepney drivers would be displaced due to route rationalization and PUV modernization, Delgra said: "We don't have the numbers for now but we can gladly provide you with the timeline as far as the pilot implementation is concerned."
Amid criticism from lawmakers over transportation agencies' apparent lack of preparation, Delgra said: "We are working in earnest. Even before the President announced, we've been pushing ourselves for an early timetable for the pilot implementation."
Zenaida Maranan, president of the Federation of Jeepney Operators and Drivers Associations of the Philippines (Fejodap), raised concerns about the eventual financing plan for the modernization program.
She said that while certain operators who have the capacity to run fleets won't find problems, it's the single operators who would encounter challenges.
LTFRB board member Aileen Lizada said it would be the Land Bank of the Philippines (Landbank) and not the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) which would be able to handle individual applications. But Maranan said Landbank had told her otherwise.
De Leon reasoned out that they have merely launched a "legal framework" for the program. To date, the Omnibus Franchising Guidelines and at least 20 memorandum circulars have been released in relation to the program. – Rappler.com