MANILA -- The government is eyeing to implement the Public Utility Vehicle (PUV) Modernization Program in three pilot areas before the year ends, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) said on Thursday.

During a House Committee on Transportation hearing on the government’s plan to modernize PUVs nationwide, LTFRB Chairman Martin Delgra III told lawmakers that the PUV modernization program will start by yearend with the rationalization of routes in three pilot areas in Metro Manila.

According to Delgra, these pilot routes are East Rizal going to Manila, Makati, and Pateros.

Delgra, however, said that the January 1 deadline set by President Rodrigo Duterte on the government’s modernization program was simply an expression of urgency.

“The expression of a date is an expression of urgency insofar as having to push this as firmly as we can,” Delgra said.

Delgra also said the Landbank of the Philippines has a PHP1-billion loan facility, while the Development Bank of the Philippines has a PHP1.2-billion credit facility to address the subsidy component for the PUV modernization.

LTFRB board member Aileen Lizada, for her part, clarified that there is no LTFRB memorandum directing the phase out of jeepneys.

“The jeepney modernization will not be phased out. The jeepney as a demonization stays,” Lizada said.

The Department of Finance reported that the program would cost PHP417 billion for the next five years, including the PHP8 billion subsidy for the purchase of PUVs and PHP3.9 billion for the Office of Transport Cooperatives.

Under the PUV Modernization Program, jeepney units that are 15 years old will be replaced with Euro 4 engines or electrically-powered engines with solar panels for roofs.

These will also be equipped with closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras, a GPS navigation system, an Automatic Fare Collection System (AFCS), speed limiters, dashboard cameras, and Wi-Fi. (PNA)