The national government will spend P447 million next year for the Public Utility Vehicle (PUV) Modernization Program.
On top of the P447 million, Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny T. Pimentel, a member of the House Committee on Appropriations, said the government is planning to provide another P2.2 billion in low-cost financing to help PUV operators under the program.
For this year, P843 million has been allotted to support the program.
“The government is likewise arranging to provide another P2.2 billion in low-cost financing to help PUV operators and drivers acquire the newly configured buses, vans and jeepneys under the program,” Pimentel said.
Once available, Pimentel said the P2.2 billion will be coursed through two state-owned lenders—the Land Bank of the Philippines and the Development Bank of the Philippines—at P1.1 billion each.
He said the P2.2 billion is lodged in the “unprogrammed appropriations” of the proposed P3.757-trillion national budget for 2019.
Unprogrammed appropriations “provide standby authority to incur additional agency obligations for priority programs or projects when revenue collection exceed targets, and when additional grants or foreign funds are generated,” according to the Department of Budget and Management.
“We have very high hopes that the modernization program, once completed, will offer the public an easier and safer way to commute in the years ahead, while enabling PUV operators and drivers to upgrade their vehicles,” Pimentel said.
“There’s also no question that the program will help improve air quality, because the new PUVs are meant to comply with lower emission standards,” Pimentel, also House transportation committee member, said.
Earlier, House Committee on Transportation Chairman Cesar Sarmiento of Catanduanes questioned why the modernization program is being implemented ahead of the issuance of duly approved route-rationalization plans.
“Why is there a rush in modernizing the existing fleet of PUVs when we have not yet determined, for instance, the required number of units for an existing route as per public demand, or the most efficient mode of public transportation—whether bus, jeepney, UV express or tricycle—for any given route?” he said during a hearing of the transportation committee last August 1.
Sarmiento also said requiring PUV operators and owners to invest in modernizing their units without a concrete and objective-rationalization plan is like “jumping into the water without knowing how to swim.”
He added it is counterproductive and is not the long-term solution to the countries’ urban traffic woes.
“The committee believes that a concrete route-rationalization plan must be accomplished first before we proceed with fleet modernization,” he added.
Officially launched only in June last year, the PUV modernization program is being implemented by the Department of Transportation (DOTr).
Under the program, all PUVs more than 15 years old will be phased out and replaced with new models equipped with automated fare-collection systems, digital security and dashboard cameras, Wi-fi Internet connectivity, GPS tracking devices and speed limiters.
The new PUVs will run either on electric batteries with zero exhaust gas emissions, or on Euro 4-compliant diesel engines that discharge 68 percent less particulate matter, 57 percent less nitrogen oxides and 50 percent less carbon monoxide.
The modernization program also reforms the franchising system to reinforce regulatory supervision of PUVs.
To build up accountability, enforcement and compliance, fewer new franchises will be issued to PUV operators and drivers who will be required to form themselves into cooperatives or firms.
In the case of jeepneys, for instance, each operator must have a minimum of 10 units to obtain a single franchise. Thus, drivers running their own units will have to band themselves into groups of at least 10 members to secure a franchise.
Under the program, the DOTr will draw up new PUV routes in consultation with local government units.
An academy will also help reinstruct PUV operators and drivers on basic road discipline, courtesy and safety.