(File photo)

MANILA – The Department of Transportation is not keen on further extending the Dec. 31 deadline for operators of public utility vehicles (PUVs), including traditional jeepneys, to consolidate operations.

At the Saturday News Forum in Quezon City, Transportation chief Jaime Bautista explained that the extension is meant to give the operators time to form a cooperative in line with the Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP).

The consolidation requires at least 15 jeepney drivers or individual franchise holders to combine into one cooperative and form a larger fleet ofPUVs.

Gusto naming makita na nagkakaroon ng effort ‘yung mga hindi nagco-consolidate. Kailangan naman siguro makita namin na sinusuportahan nila ‘yung programa kaya sa ngayon gusto naming talagang ilagay ‘yung deadline sa Dec. 31 (We want to see that they are making an effort. I think we need to see that that they are supporting the program. That’s why for now we want to set the deadline at Dec. 31),” he said.

In the same press conference, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) said there would be a review on some portion but the “whole program” would be implemented under the Marcos administration.

[K]aya nga nag-emerge din iyong public utility vehicle modernization program dahil gusto natin i-angat hindi lang para doon sa ating mga mananakay, kung hindi pati iyong sistema at iyong sitwasyon ng ating mga operator at ng ating mga driver. Kailangan natin i-angat iyon (The public utility vehicle modernization program emerged because we wanted to make the system better not only for riding public but also for the operators and the drivers themselves. We need to improve those),” said Joel Bolano, LTFRB Central Office Technical Division chief.

Bautista noted that the PUVMP ultimately boils down to providing comfortable, efficient and reliable public transport.

He added that the program would also generate more jobs in the transport sector such as mechanics, administrative staff, and dispatcher.

The DOTr had tried to dissuade transport group Manibela from leading a weeklong strike, starting on March 6, by reaching out to the group to address its concerns regarding the program.

Free rides

Meanwhile, Bautista assured commuters that contingency plans are in place to soften the impact of the strike.

He said available vehicles from other agencies will be deployed to ferry stranded riders while operations of trains might be extended for an hour.

In a news release, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) will have “libreng sakay” (free ride) vehicles for the entire week, consisting of four airconditioned buses, two non-airconditioned buses, and 13 commuter vans.

"These libreng sakay vehicles that we will deploy starting Monday can carry around 1,200 passengers per trip," MMDA acting chair Romando Artes said.

The MMDA and other concerned agencies will hold an inter-agency task force meeting Sunday to determine and finalize the routes where the vehicles and other assets will be prepositioned.

The MMDA will also assess the possible suspension of the expanded number coding scheme next week.

Undersecretary Procopio Lipana, MMDA General Manager and head of the inter-agency secretariat, warned motorists who will take advantage of the strike.

“We will have our full deployment in the MMDA and in the Philippine National Police - National Capital Region Police Office and we are on alert in case there will be incidents of snubbing and overcharging passengers,” he said.

Open mind

Obet Martin, Pasang Masda president, said a transport strike is not the solution to their concerns and called on his fellow transport workers to work with the government and support the PUVMP.

"Ang mga operator, magku-consolidate to form a cooperative or corporation. Sila din po ang stockholder (Once they are consolidated to form a cooperative or corporation, they will become the stockholders),” he said.

Hindi mawawala ang kanilang karapatan. Kanila po iyan sapagkat ayon doon sa PUVMP, kailangan magsama-sama kayong mga affected operators to form a cooperative or corporation para ito po ang maglu-loan sa mga government bank and private bank. Hindi po i-entertain ang individual operator (Their rights will not be stripped. Under the PUVMP, they need to form a cooperative to be able to get a loan from the government and private banks because individual operators will not be entertained),” he added. (PNA)