PUVs in the Philippines

Francisco Motors wants to give free jeepneys. Slow LTFRB permits stand in the way.

Lance Spencer Yu

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Francisco Motors wants to give free jeepneys. Slow LTFRB permits stand in the way.

MODERN. A previous prototype of the modern jeepney manufactured by Francisco Motors.

Elmer Francisco

Meanwhile, the Maharlika Investment Corporation is 'very interested' in Francisco Motor's unli jeepney rides program and has agreed to fund the development of its first jeepney terminal

Francisco Motors, one of the country’s oldest jeepney manufacturers, has an ambitious plan to offer “unli ride” tickets along jeepney routes and to provide operators with free modern jeepneys. But government bureaucracy is delaying what could have been a pilot program launched in March.

Sobrang tagal ng LTFRB, at sila lang ‘yung nagiging hindrance, nagpapabagal sa program na ito,” Franciso Motors head Elmer Francisco said during a recent public roundtable discussion on jeepney modernization issues. (The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board is taking so long, and they’re the only one hindering and slowing down this program.)

“In short, the only thing standing in between Francisco Motors giving away these free jeepneys to the jeepney operators and jeepney cooperatives is LTFRB,” he added.

The visibly frustrated CEO didn’t stop there, as he bemoaned the government’s slow response and told the LTFRB’s Chief Transportation Development Officer Joel Bolano: “Sabihin mo sa boss mo, ang bagal niya (Tell your boss that he’s so slow).”

Based on documents seen by Rappler, Francisco Motors intends to give its modern jeepneys out for free, as long as operators stay in what it calls the “TsuperHero Program.” Under this program, Francisco Motors will offer commuters unlimited ride tickets for certain routes, similar to Japan’s unlimited rail pass.

Jeepney operators will then accept passengers with unlimited ride tickets, although operators can still get direct payments from commuters without the unli ride pass. Jeepney operators are entitled to a share of Francisco Motors’ sales of its unli ride tickets. The transport corporation or cooperative will also retain ownership over its franchise and Francisco Motors’ jeepneys, which will remain free as long as they stay in the program.

On top of this, Francisco Motors is also supposed to set up jeepney stops along routes. Commuters can get on and off jeepneys at these designated stops, which is also where their unli ride tickets will be validated.

Sounds like an interesting plan? The government thinks so too – except it’s been painfully slow to act.

According to records verified by Rappler, Elmer Francisco first floated the idea of an unli jeepney ride program to Department of Transportation (DOTr) Secretary Jaime Bautista during a meeting on December 21, 2023.

By late February, Francisco Motors said they were ready to do a pilot for three months starting March 1. The plan was to partner with a transport cooperative and replace its 28 old jeepney units, which cover a 4-kilometer route from Merry Homes in Caloocan City to Sta. Monica Shop and Ride in Novaliches, Quezon City.

But, first, the DOTr said that the jeepney manufacturer needed to secure a special permit from the LTFRB.

Francisco met with LTFRB representatives on March 4, and the following day he sent a letter request for special permit to Secretary Bautista and LTFRB chief Teofilo Guadiz III. April 1 was the new target start date. After a series of follow-ups, the LTFRB confirmed that the TsuperHero proposal was up for evaluation during its March 14 board meeting.

On March 15, Guadiz told Francisco that the board had “some reservations” about the proposal – though he did not specify what they were. The LTFRB chairman did not respond to Francisco’s several follow-ups.

More than two weeks later and past the April 1 target day, Francisco aired out his frustrations with the government during the jeepney modernization roundtable.

“What we need from the government is to act fast. If you cannot act fast, please just stay out of the way. Give us a letter of no objection. We will do it for you. And we are not faulting you. Ang sa akin lang (For me), we move fast for the benefit of the Filipino people,” Francisco said on Monday, April 8.

Can jeepney fares stay at P15 after modernization? Experts fear it could double.

Can jeepney fares stay at P15 after modernization? Experts fear it could double.
What’s with the delay?

According to a DOTr document seen by Rappler, the transportation department said that it could not provide an official endorsement of the program, given its April 1 timeline.

The DOTr’s official response – dated March 22, but only sent to Francisco Motors on April 1 – also explained that the department still has to thoroughly examine how the proposal would fit in with existing policies and other consolidated jeepney operators serving the same route.

The DOTr also urged Francisco Motors to submit an application for a certificate of compliance for their modern jeepney model.

Francisco also finally received a response letter from LTFRB Chairman Guadiz mere hours after he publicly berated the LTFRB’s inaction – although the letter was dated April 2, nearly a week earlier.

In it, Guadiz said that the LTFRB Board recognized the benefit that the program would provide for the government’s modernization program, but several legal roadblocks stood in the way.

First, the proposed route is not an existing route of the transport cooperative. Under the current policy, the special permit that Francisco Motors needs may only be issued after the proposed route is opened through an LTFRB memorandum circular – which has not happened.

Regarding the unli ride and fleet management proposal, Guadiz said that current LTFRB guidelines require fare collection to be based on distance and service area. Francisco Motors doesn’t have the authority to set its own fares under the proposed program.

The LTFRB again said it needed more time to study the proposal without giving any timeline or estimated dates. It also did not yet specify any steps or recommendations for Francisco Motors to act on.

And like the DOTr, the LTFRB also highlighted that Francisco Motors did not yet have a certificate of compliance for its jeepney models.

Asked why the jeepney manufacturer has yet to secure a certificate for their electric jeepneys, Francisco told Rappler that they’re still finalizing their two new prototypes – a battery electric vehicle variant and fuel cell electric vehicle variant – before filing an application.

“The old prototype that we currently have is not the one that we will mass produce. The upgraded one is what we will submit for COC in which we are still finishing the new prototype,” Francisco told Rappler. “Alam naman nila ‘yan sa DOTr and LTFRB. Nirurub-in lang nila dahil wala silang ibang masabi (The DOTr and LTFRB knows this. They’re just rubbing it in since they have nothing else to say) to cover-up their delaying tactics.”

Could Maharlika Fund’s investment in a jeepney manufacturer save PUV modernization?

Could Maharlika Fund’s investment in a jeepney manufacturer save PUV modernization?
Maharlika’s investment

Meanwhile, the government’s Maharlika Investment Corporation (MIC) has already agreed to fund Francisco Motor’s first jeepney terminal under the TsuperHero Program.

Rappler reported earlier in January that the company managing the country’s first sovereign fund was eyeing an investment in the jeepney manufacturer. Back then, Maharlika’s president and chief executive officer Joel Consing already believed that Francisco Motors “checked all of the boxes” for a good investment.

And after a third meeting on March 27, the MIC agreed to bankroll the development of Francisco Motors’ first jeepney terminal, according to Francisco. A tripartite agreement will govern this, in which the Office of House Speaker Martin Romualdez will look for a 5-hectare government-owned property within Metro Manila, the MIC will provide the funds for the jeepney terminal’s development, and Francisco Motors will serve as its operator. A total of 100 jeepney terminals are planned to be built nationwide.

With the government committing money to the TsuperHero Program, Consing and Romualdez are also reportedly asking what’s taking the LTFRB so long to give the green light. If you ask Elmer Francisco, it’s all red tape.

But, for now, the question remains: after building generations of traditional jeepneys, will Francisco Motors be able to pull off this revival of the King of the Road? – Rappler.com

Anti-poor? How gov’t defends PUV modernization, why jeepney stakeholders oppose it

Anti-poor? How gov’t defends PUV modernization, why jeepney stakeholders oppose it

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Lance Spencer Yu

Lance Spencer Yu is a multimedia reporter who covers the transportation, tourism, infrastructure, finance, agriculture, and corporate sectors, as well as macroeconomic issues.