February 18, 2018, 3:08 pm
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LTFRB, transport groups define ‘phase out’

THE Land Transportation Franchising Regulatory Board (LTFRB) and transport groups led by the Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (Piston) yesterday faced-off on the real intention of the government’s modernization program for public transport vehicles.

In the end, the discussion between the government and transport groups centered on semantics, particularly the meaning of the word “phase out.”

In a hearing of the House committee on transportation, LTFRB insisted that the government is not phasing out jeepneys, although the plan would require drivers and operators to buy new ones.

“There is no LTFRB memorandum phasing out the jeepneys,” said LTFRB board member Aileen Lizada. “The jeepney denomination will not be phased out.”

Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade was a no-show in the hearing called for by Rep. Cesar Sarmiento (PDP-Laban, Catanduanes). Tugade was represented by Assistant Secretary Mark de Leon.

While government claims that there will be no phase out, jeepneys older than 15 years will be replaced with electric-powered and Euro 4-compliant vehicles that cost around P1.4 million to P1.6 million per unit.

This is why Piston and other transport groups are protesting the modernization of public utility vehicles (PUV), saying the program will only lead to the loss of jobs of many jeepney drivers and a substantial increase in fares.

Piston said while it is not against the modernization aspect of the program, it is opposing what he called the “massacre” of the livelihood of some drivers and their operators and its effect to ordinary passengers.

The group’s president George San Mateo said the program would only be used as a “milking cow” of the rich and some unscrupulous government officials.

“That’s what we’ve been calling as the grand lie. What they’re saying is the jeep as a category won’t get phased out,” he said. “The LTFRB knows what the operators fear--the phase out of the unit! They keep saying, there’s no phase out but they themselves admit that the units will be phased out.”

San Mateo claimed a lack of consultation between the DOTr and the transport sector, saying they have not met with Tugade since De Leon promised to arrange a meeting last May 22.

LTFRB chair Martin Delgra III, however, said the LTFRB has consulted stakeholders several times, including Piston, Pasang Masda, and FEJODAP.

President Duterte has given public utility jeep operators and drivers until the end of the year to phase out and modernize their decades-old vehicles, warning that he would have them arrested and the old vehicles destroyed if they failed to comply with the government modernization program of public transport vehicles.

Delgra told Rep. Carlos Zarate (PL, Bayan Muna) that “pilot testing” of modern jeepneys will begin in January 2018 but only in Metro Manila although he could not say yet when the program will be implemented nationwide.

De Leon could not say how many drivers and operators will be affected once the program is in place pending the result of a route rationalization study.

He said, however, that the Department of Transportation (DOTr) has already coordinated with the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) “for the social support mechanisms.”

“We have already done several meetings with these agencies to provide support for these drivers/ operators that will be possibly affected by these programs,” he said.
 
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