ABRUPT and sudden changes oftentimes result in disaster, particularly when the change to be made was not planned properly in the first place.
This seems to be the case with the Public Utility Vehicle (PUV) program of the national government. The program “aims to transform the road sector of public transport through the introduction of safer and climate-friendly vehicles, improved regulation, and industry consolidation”. (https://changing-transport.org/modernizing-public-transport-in-the-philippines/)
Considering its very noble intention, one would think that it should have been wholeheartedly embraced by a majority if not all of those affected and concerned sectors, especially the PUV operators and drivers. However, six years from the time of its inception the PUV modernization program is still meeting stiff opposition from those who feel that once they become part of the “consolidation” they would be at the losing end of the deal. Come to think of it, compelling operators and drivers to form cooperatives or corporations (also known as consolidation) is not as simple as the government would have everybody believe.
For one, the government believes that by consolidating all the operators and drivers of PUVs in the country the transportation system in the country will become more reliable. But unfortunately if we take a closer look, the so-called consolidation is simply a regulatory measure to oblige these operators and drivers to utilize and operate modern mini-buses as a replacement of the iconic jeepneys that they drive. Obviously under the PUV modernization program you cannot be part of the consolidation, or be a member of the created transport cooperative, without giving up your jeepney and start driving a mini-bus or so called modern jeepney.
However, if the intent of the government is to eventually replace the iconic jeepneys and replace it with something modern such as a mini—bus, whether of the diesel or electronic type, perhaps they should have carefully considered the high cost of modern jeepneys since a quick search online will tell you that most mini-buses for sale in the country cost more than two million pesos. An operator who only owns one jeepney would certainly be hard pressed to purchase a brand new mini-bus just to comply with the requirements to be part of the consolidation.
The government has already set aside the amount of one point six billion pesos (P 1,600,000,000.00) to jumpstart the PUV modernization program, but it is believed that the said amount might not be enough to cover the needs of tens of thousands of small jeepney or PUV operators that would be affected once their iconic passenger jeepneys are replaced with modern mini-buses. For another, these operators will have to shoulder the burden of paying the amortizations of these mini-buses which they will purchase if they are to be compliant with the program.
That is why in a recent interview, Senate Minority Floor Leader Koko Pimentel opined that the government “should be more flexible so drivers and operators will have more time to comply with the requirements of the PUV modernization program”. (https://www.cnnphilippines.com/news/2024/1/2/pimentel-jeepney-modernization.html)
Now, even if the PUV modernization program began several years ago, there is a need to promote and advertise its feasibility as well as its practicality in terms of easing the transport problem, having a reliable system of transportation in the country, protecting the fragile environment and providing a suitable and better livelihood for the operators and drivers that will be affected.
For now the government has set a deadline which has to be complied with by the operators and drivers of PUVs in the country. But perhaps President Bongbong Marcos can find a way to lessen the economic impact that will be brought upon these operators and drivers who will be compelled to buy and use high-priced mini buses just to abide by the program. One suggestion is to provide more funds for the purchase of these mini-buses and offer very low amortization rates upon their purchase. This will certainly help the affected operators and drivers who stand to carry the burden of paying these modern vehicles.