MODERNIZATION NIGHTMARE: Phaseout looms over 2.5K Western Visayas PUJs

Thousands of traditional jeepneys in Western Visayas will be phased out if their owners and operators fail to meet the December 31 deadline to consolidate themselves into cooperatives or corporations. (Rjay Zuriaga Castor photo)

By Rjay Zuriaga Castor

More than 2,500 traditional public utility jeepneys (PUJs) in Western Visayas are on the brink of a phaseout if they fail to meet the December 31 deadline to consolidate themselves into cooperatives or corporations.

Atty. Salvador “Jun” Altura, legal officer of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board Region 6 (LTFRB-6) told Daily Guardian that as of December 19, a total of 2,509 PUJ units in the region have not yet been consolidated.

Bacolod City has the highest number of unconsolidated PUJs, with 1,439, followed by Iloilo City with 406, Negros Occidental with 244, and Iloilo province with 232 jeepneys.

“Collectively in Antique, Capiz, Kalibo, and Guimaras, there are 188 that are yet to be consolidated,” Altura added.

Meanwhile, all traditional PUJs in Roxas City are now all under a cooperative.

The transport official emphasized that the case in Bacolod City is concerning as drivers and operators had since raised their objections to the government’s Public Utility Vehicle (PUV) modernization program.

For Iloilo City, the LTFRB-6 legal officer claimed that the 400 PUJs that may not be consolidated by the end of the year could not significantly create a shortage in the supply of jeepneys in the city.

Data from the Iloilo City Public Safety and Transportation Management showed that as of November this year, there are already 1,560 traditional and modernized PUJs that have certificates of public convenience or a provisional authority to ply the city routes. Of the total number, 512 are classified as modernized jeepneys.

The government requires operators to consolidate into cooperatives on or before December 31 as a requirement under the PUV modernization program, which would gradually phase out old jeepneys with modern units.

Jeepney operators who fail to meet the consolidation deadline will lose their individual franchise and the opportunity to ply routes.

The LTFRB-6 said that being a member of an existing transport cooperative or applying for consolidation will be a requirement for vehicle registration with the Land Transportation Office LTO next year.

Altura said that the major reason why some jeepneys rejected the idea of getting consolidated stems from the fear that the cooperative would take advantage of them.

Ang kalabanan sini nga pangduwa-duwa, nasandig sa ila duda sa cooperative nga ila sudlan,” he said.

[Some jeepney drivers and operators have doubts about joining cooperatives.]

While he acknowledged the doubts of the operators and drivers, Altura advised operators to still catch up and consolidate before the December 31 deadline.

He added that they can opt to leave the cooperative later if the anomalies or fears have been proven.

My sincere advice is this, kung may pagduda kamo, sulod lang anay sa cooperative kag pa-consolidate. Then later, kung ang fears mo nga ina napamtaud-an nga indi gid man masaligan ang cooperative, guwa na lang kamo after,” he stressed.

[My sincere advice is this, if you have doubts, just join the cooperative and consolidate first. Then, if you find out that your fears about the cooperative are proven to, you can leave afterward.]

Altura mentioned that the LTFRB-6 has been lenient with the documentary requirements, even operating on Saturdays to cater to drivers’ and operators’ requests for consolidation.

With only 10 days left before the deadline, the transport official said the LTFRB-6 is expecting an increase in the number of applicants seeking consolidation in the coming days.

In the PUV modernization program, drivers and operators are required to use an electric vehicle or a combustion engine that complies with a Euro IV emission standard to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, toxic fumes, and other forms of air pollution.

A traditional jeepney costs around P150,000 to P250,000, while, according to state-run banks, a modern e-jeepney is priced between P2.3 million to P2.8 million pesos.