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‘Di alam ang gagawin: Poe says gov’t ill prepared for jeepney phaseout

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The government is “not yet ready” to implement its plan to phaseout jeepneys, Sen. Grace Poe stressed this on Monday after consulting with concerned agencies in charge of such project.

Poe, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Public Services, came up with such observation after conducting another public hearing on the planned modernization of public utility vehicles (PUVs).

“Ang malinaw, ang gobyerno ay hindi pa handa na i-phaseout ang lahat ng mga public utility vehicles na non-compliant doon sa modernization requirement nila dahil hindi nga malinaw kung ano ang mga requirements nila,” she said in an interview.

Under pressure by senators and stiff opposition from transport leaders, the LTFRB “agreed in principle” to hold in abeyance the implementation of the March 2019 deadline for jeepney operators and drivers to consolidate themselves and form a corporation or cooperative to be able to participate in the modernization.

Poe also backed Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto’s suggestion to let the market forces decide and implement the modernization voluntarily among transport operators.

“Hindi pa nga malinaw kung papaano makaka-utang ng pera ‘yung mga drayber para makakuha ng bagong sasakyan. Hindi rin malinaw kung ano ba talaga ang magiging requirement para doon sa sasakyan nila,” she said.

“Sa ngayon, hindi pa handa ang gobyerno, mawawalan ng masasakyan ang ating mga kababayan at mawawalan din ng trabaho ang marami,” Poe said.

She is inclined to recommend a five-year transition period for the modernization to fully take effect, owing to the lack of consultations and the seeming premature execution of the program in the light of soaring prices of fuel and basic goods.

While she fully agrees with modernizing public transportation including the most iconic jeepney, once dubbed the King of the Road, Poe warned the policies set forth in the modernization could result in massive loss of jobs and may only unduly favor big corporations.

“Ang LTFRB [Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board] ay hindi nagbibigay ng pagkakataon para dito sa mga drivers natin na marinig, wala silang konsultasyon,” she said.

Basta labas ng labas ng memo circular na hindi pa naman sila handa,” Poe told reporters on the sidelines of the hearing, referring to several issuances by the transport regulator that sets a March 2019 deadline for jeepney operators to form a cooperative or a corporation to secure bank loans.

Transport leaders representing jeepney drivers and operators said there were no inclusive consultations on the modernization and they warned that older jeepneys—although emission-compliant and roadworthy—could be phased out.

They said thousand of small-time jeepney operators may lose their livelihood and may be left without something to fend for their families.

In addition, Poe’s panel was told that the LTFRB opened new or “developmental” jeepney routes without holding a public hearing and without the knowledge of the transport stakeholders.

“Ang sabi naman natin, sa modernization, kailangang ligtas at ito’y compliant sa Clean Air Act, ‘yun lang naman. Bakit nila mamadaliin at tatanggalan ng trabaho ang ilang daanlibong mga drayber natin?” she asked.

Transport groups also accused the Transport department, particularly the LTFRB, of favoring big companies with regard to the grant of new transport franchises.

They said the banks’ capital and infrastructure requirements were too steep and something that they, clearly, could not afford.