Transportation Assistant Secretary Mark Richmund de Leon and LTFRB Chairman Martin Delgra III alongside other transport officials lead the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the 45 solar-powered jeepneys that will jumpstart the PUV Modernization Program in Tacloban City on Jan. 23, 2018.  (DOTr photo) 

TACLOBAN CITY -- The Department of Transportation (DOTr) launched here on Tuesday the public utility vehicles (PUV) Modernization Program, an initiative that seeks to “overhaul” the country’s public transportation system.

The program has initially deployed 45 solar-powered jeepneys supplied by the Star8 Green Technology Corp.

The jeepneys cover the Tacloban-Palanog route intended to improve accessibility to resettlement sites occupied by thousands of super typhoon Yolanda.

“This is the program that we cannot give up on. Many administrations have tried, but never got the first base because this is a large scale transformation. We are not just making repairs, we are overhauling the fleet, the system, the industry and the institution,” Assistant Secretary Mark Richmund de Leon said.

The solar jeepneys, designed to replace the aging combustion engine fleet, have been operating in the city since mid-December.

Each unit can carry 20 passengers with free WiFi onboard, overhead electric fan per passenger, and USB power port per passenger to charge their devices.

It has a capacity to travel approximately 100 kilometers on a full battery charge, and adding another 10-15km from the solar production during daylight hours.

“Dignified commuting experience is what we want to achieve. We want our drivers to be proud of their job and commuters to be happy and safe in their riding experience,” said de Leon during the launch at the Rizal Park here.

The e-jeepney will address the serious problem of air pollution in urban areas largely caused by dilapidated jeepneys, said the DOTr official.

“The PUV Modernization Program is long overdue. Past administrations have long wanted to modernize transportation, but every time people wave flags saying that the program is anti-poor, we take a step back. Hence, the present sorry state of our road transportation. This has to stop,” de Leon said.

The Development Bank of the Philippines earlier announced a PHP1.5 billion loan to finance the acquisition of new PUVs to qualified prospective borrowers.

Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board Chairman Martin Delgra III said the program will address the public transportation system concern in the city’s relocation sites where thousands of people have to wait for hours to get to the commercial district from their new homes.

“After we heard the mobility concerns of relocated families, we thought of piloting the environment-friendly public transportation system in this city,” Delgra said.

More than 8,000 families have been moved from danger zones to relocation sites in the northern part of the city, creating huge demand for public transportation. (PNA)