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MANILA, Philippines – President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Wednesday, March 1, said the government’s public utility vehicle (PUV) modernization program needs to be implemented in a “different way,” after senators backed calls to defer it and transportation groups announced a weeklong jeepney strike in protest of the scheme.
Marcos made the statement in a media interview on the sidelines of an event in Manila on Wednesday, with just four months left before a government-imposed deadline for traditional jeepneys to consolidate into either a cooperative or corporation or risk losing their franchise, or authority, to ply a designated route.
“Ngayon doon sa issue sa modernization na sinasabi, sa aking palagay ay kailangan ding gawin talaga ‘yan. Ngunit sa pag-aaral ko, parang hindi maganda ang naging implementation nung modernization,” said Marcos.
(On the issue of modernization, I think it must push through. But based on my own studies, it seem it’s been badly implemented.)
As a result of the newly imposed deadline by government, hundreds of thousands of public utility vehicles (PUVs) – both jeepneys and UV Express vehicles – are set to hold a week-long transport strike in different parts of the archipelago. Marcos and the Department of Transportation are hoping government and transport groups can still dialogue to avert the strike.
The Philippine government in 2017, under former president Rodrigo Duterte, launched a modernization program that aimed to phase out all old PUVs, including jeepneys, by 2020. The argument then – as it is now – is that older vehicles, including the iconic traditional jeepneys, are no longer safe for commuters and are not environmentally sustainable.
The transport sector, while supportive of the push for safer and greener vehicles, have long bemoaned the high cost of the program. While traditional jeepneys cost between P150,000 to P250,000, a modern jeepney sets back operators over P2 million.
Marcos, who assumed office in June 2022, said several issues must be resolved: the basis of what constitutes as “safe” PUV, the timetable for its implementation, and the Philippines’ supply of renewable energy, since the modernization program “was a first step towards electric vehicles.”
“Kailangan pa rin nating ayusin ang supply ng renewables kasi ang sinasabi ng mga nag-aaral kung talagang para sa climate change ‘yan, kahit na mag-electric vehicle ka, magcha-charge ka, ‘yung kuryente galing din sa coal-fired plant, ‘di ganoon din, walang nagbago. Nilipat mo lang ‘yung pollution nang kaunti so that’s an improvement but that’s not – doesn’t help climate change,” said Marcos.
(We need to fix our supply of renewables because the experts say that if electric vehicles charge using electricity coal a coal-fired plant, nothing changes in terms of wanting to respond to climate change. You’re simply moving the source of pollution so that’s an improvement but that doesn’t help address climate change.)
Marcos said there was a need to revisit the program’s timetable as well as the mode of implementation.
“We have to implement it in a different way. We have to implement it in a different way. ‘Yung modernization siguro, ‘yung we have to look properly at what the real timetable is for the introduction of electric vehicles kung talagang kailan, kung puwede na ngayon. Palagay ko hindi pa puwede ngayon, 30% pa lang ng power natin is renewable eh,” he added.
(In terms of the modernization, we have to look properly at what the real timetable is for the introduction of the electric vehicles, if it’s doable now. Now is not the time, I think, since our renewable power is only at 30%.)
Marcos said that instead of automatically phasing out old vehicles, government can inspect each one to see if it is still fit for use. “May luma naman na maganda pa rin. May luma naman na puwede pang gamitin (Some old vehicles are still in good condition, they’re still usable),” he said.
The President expressed openness to moving the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board’s June 30 deadline for PUVs to consolidate or lose their franchise. “‘Yun ang pag-uusapan (That will be discussed) – but we’ll talk about it,” he added. – Rappler.com