Transport groups set up camp before LTFRB-6; renew call to junk PUVMP

Protest camp in front of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board Region 6 (LTFRB-6) office in Iloilo City. (Contributed photo)

By Rjay Zuriaga Castor 

With only less than five days before their impending phaseout from the streets, drivers and operators of traditional jeepneys and UV express units in the region have once again called on the national government to scrap the public utility vehicle modernization program (PUVMP).

The call was made by setting up a protest camp in front of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board Region 6 (LTFRB-6) office on Wednesday, December 27.

The protest, led by the “No to PUV Phaseout Coalition-Panay”, will continue until December 28.

“Naglunsar kita sang kampuhan diri sa atubang sang LTFRB-6 agud ipalab-ot sa panguluhan natun sa national ang atun nga pagpamatok sa compulsory consolidation nga maga deadline sa December 31, 2023,” said Elmer Forro, lead convenor of the coalition.

[We launched a protest in front of LTFRB-6 to bring to the attention of the national government our stern opposition to the compulsory consolidation which is set on a December 31, 2023 deadline.]

The mandatory consolidation measure of the PUVMP forces individual franchise-holders and operators of PUVs to surrender the franchises previously granted to them.

The program also requires operators and drivers to “consolidate” by forming or joining cooperatives or corporations on or before December 31, which would gradually phase out old jeepneys with modern units.

President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. on December 12 this year declared that there would be no further extension of the deadline for consolidation of PUVs.

The LTFRB on December 14 also approved a circular providing that only consolidated entities and individual operators who fail to meet the consolidation deadline will lose their individual franchise and the opportunity to ply routes.

Forro said the apparent refusal of the national government to lift the deadline or scrap the modernization program serves as their determination to further push their call.

“Ang compulsory consolidation sa December 31, naghatag sa amon sang determinsayon nga mas wala na kami sang ginasaligan pa kundi ang amon kusog bilang pumluyo. Wala na kita sang ginaasahan pa sa atun panguluhan bangud sa ‘kontra drayber, kontra operator’ nga tindog niya (Marcos),” he said.

[The compulsory consolidation on December 31 has given us the determination to rely on our strength as citizens. We no longer have the expected support from Marcos considering his ‘anti-driver, anti-operator’ stance.]

Forro further urged commuters to join their cause since they will also be primarily affected by the modernization program.

He claimed that there would be limited PUVs to cater them, potentially resulting in higher fares for commuters utilizing the new modern jeepneys.

The protest might extend until December 29, according to Forro.

No extension for PUV consolidation

Atty. Salvador “Jun” Altura, legal officer of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board Region 6 (LTFRB-6) told Daily Guardian they respect the constitutional rights of the transport groups to hold a protest but the consolidation deadline will still be enforced on December 31.

“There’s nothing new in what they’re saying. Amo man man to dyapon — ibasura ang PUVMP. Halin sa umpisa, amo man na ang ila kawsa. Kung gapati sila paagi sa rally, we respect that,” he said.

[There’s nothing new in what they’re saying. It’s still the same — reject the PUVMP. Since the beginning, that has been their cause. If they express their beliefs through rallies, we respect that.]

Altura said until the LTFRB and the Department of Transportation (DOTr) get a temporary restraining order or an injunction order from the Supreme Court (SC), PUV drivers and operators still have to join cooperatives or corporations to be given provisional authority.

“Until we get an injunction or a relief from the SC mandating a halt or stop to the implementation of our memorandum circulars on the PUVMP, then the program will still push through,” he explained.

On December 20, the No to PUV Phaseout Coalition – Panay alongside other transport groups filed a petition before the SC, asking the latter to declare as “null and void” all department orders and memorandum circulars of the DOTr and LTFRB related to the PUV consolidation.

Altura said around 90 percent PUVs in the region have already joined in a cooperative or company.

“We are still coming up with the exact numbers but talking of percentage, we are already at the 90 percent units consolidated all throughout the region […] That is an increasing number because we loosened up the requirement for consolidation,” he said.

Initially, the consolidation required at least 15 individual franchise holders per route to form one cooperative but this was changed later this year  to “as long as the applicants constitute 40 percent of the authorized units in the route.”

Documentary requirements for the consolidation are the latest LTO Official Receipt at Certificate of Registration (OR at CR); SEC Certificate of Registration/Certification (for corporation) or CDA Registration/OTC Certification (for cooperative); and affidavit of conformity that individual operator is willing to join a cooperative or corporation.

Altura advised operators to still catch up and consolidate before the December 31 deadline and not wait for the decision of the SC regarding the petition.

He highly recommended to drivers and operators to enter existing cooperatives or companies instead of making a new one considering the limited time before the deadline.

Altura said the LTFRB-6 office will be open until 5 p.m. on December 31 to cater to operators and drivers who would comply with the consolidation at the last minute.