November 22, 2021
Photo credits: The Philippine Star
Senator Risa Hontiveros has urged the Department of Transportation (DoTr) and the Land Transport Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) to include in the service contracting program public utility vehicles (PUV) drivers and operators who have not yet bought into the PUV modernization. “Sinusuportahan ko ang paglalagay ng malaking budget para sa service contracting program ng LTFRB. Pero inaalala ko na baka i-discriminate o hindi isali ang mga tsuper na hindi pa kabilang sa PUV modernization program ng gobyerno,” Hontiveros said. “Service contracting should be for all. And not just for those who have already bought into the PUV modernization program. Wala dapat diskriminasyon sa operators at drivers at dapat siguruhing lahat ay may pagkakataong sumali sa service-contracting at libreng sakay program,” she furthered. The Senator stressed that there are at least 50 percent of jeepney and UV operators who have so far not joined the program due to issues and problems confronted in its implementation. It can be recalled that the DoTr, in a forum a few weeks ago held by the UP National Center for Transport Studies, stated that the policy intent now is to make service contracting a central component of PUV modernization. This means that the allocated budget for service contracting might be used to pressure those who are not yet part of the program to participate, even as there are indeed legitimate reasons why they can’t or won’t. Hontiveros pointed out that even if drivers and operators wanted to be part of the program, there are pertinent factors that cause hesitation and prevent operators from consolidating with others, changing fleets and complying with the modernization program. Among these are the dramatic increase in the price of modern jeepneys and buses, as well as fuel products, while the number of daily riders and the number of people allowed is still at the minimum. “Our drivers are deep in debt and their cooperatives naturally hesitate to take on more debt — which is unavoidable under the fleet replacement scheme. Hindi natin sila masisi kung hanggang ngayon, hindi pa rin sila makausad. There is too much uncertainty that casts doubt on the viability of the program as it was originally designed,” Hontiveros stated. She then urged the concerned agencies to look into a solution being proposed by transport groups for the government “to shoulder the purchase of modern jeepneys (and be the owner) and just have the vehicles leased to the cooperatives.” “Kailangang humanap ng solusyon na win-win para sa lahat. Service contracting is a central part of international best practices — transport should be treated as a public service that government pays for so that public transportation will be safe, ubiquitous, convenient, affordable, and a source of stable incomes for our tireless transport workers” Hontiveros concluded.