SEVERAL transport groups and vehicle manufacturing companies have expressed their support for the Duterte administration’s Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP) through a memorandum of agreement, which was signed in February at the Land Transportation Office (LTO) and witnessed by officials of the Department of Transportation (DOTr). The manufacturers have also committed to produce more than 3,000 modern jeepneys in the second quarter of 2018.
To enlighten us on the high-profile issue of the PUVMP, the Society of Philippine Motoring Journalists (SPMJ) recently invited LTFRB Chairman Martin Delgra III for their very first forum, which was held at the Seda Hotel Vertis North in Quezon City. Aside from Delgra, other guest speakers included Arthur Balmadrid and Joseph Bautista of the Truck Manufacturers Association of the Philippines (TAP). Balmadrid is also the vice president and general manager of Pilipinas Taj Autogroup Inc., the exclusive distributor of Tata vehicles in the country, while Bautista is the current officer in charge of the Truck Association of the Philippines and the vice president for business development of Isuzu Philippines Inc.
During the forum, Delgra presented to the SPMJ members, including this writer, the five main objectives of the PUV Modernization Program, and they are 1) To modernize the current PUV fleet; 2) to reform and consolidate the industry; 3) to move toward low-emission PUVs; 4) to ensure the safety and welfare of commuters and encourage modal shift; and 5) to improve the standards of safety and professionalism of drivers and operators.
“Our public transport system is deemed unsafe, unhealthy, unreliable and uncomfortable. The public buses and jeepneys serve 67 percent of demand but uses 28 percent of road space,” Delgra said.
According to Delgra, “There are about 180,000 public jeepneys nationwide, in which 90 percent of this is 15 years old and above. The public jeepneys are 17 percent ambient air pollution in Metro Manila and up to 80 percent in other cities. The jeepneys are 10 times more likely to get into accidents than private car riders. We lose around P2.4 billion in economy due to traffic congestion,” he added.
The chairman said that there will be no total ban on the jeepneys but, rather, replacement of the old ones with new and better public transport. He added that, by law, public-utility jeepneys (PUJs) and public-utility buses (PUBs) can operate up to 15 years, while taxis can operate up to 13 years. Therefore, these PUVs can continue to operate within the bounds of legal operations.
Under the Omnibus Franchising guidelines, the PUVs should be environment friendly that will have Euro 4 engines or better, electric, or alternative fuel; it should have a side door; speed limiter; CCTV (72-hr recording), GPS, dashboard camera; automatic fare collection System, and Free Wi-fi.
“Last year we heard that hundreds of people had to wait for hours to get to the commercial district from their new homes in Tacloban. So, we thought of piloting the environment-friendly public transportation system. Today, 45 solar-powered jeepneys supplied by the Star8 Green Technology Corp. operate in the city since mid-December 2017. Each unit can carry 20 passengers with free Wi-Fi onboard, overhead electric fan and USB power port per passenger to charge their devices,” Delgra explained. “This program helped address the public transportation system concern in the city’s relocation sites,” he added.
Bautista also presented to SPMJ members their PUV modernization plan, design and specifications. “The current jeepneys that you see on the road don’t have park and signal lamps; no seat belts; no instrument panels; no dashboards, no panels and they have unnecessary accessories. We want to replace them with the new PUVs that will be safer, roadworthy, environment-friendly, efficient, convenient and comfortable,” Bautista said.
According to Bautista, the PUV classifications are as follows: Class 1—minimum of nine and a maximum of 22 passengers, all seated; Class 2—parallel/side facing seat configuration; more than 22 passengers, combination of seated and standing; Class 3—front-facing seat configuration; more than 22 passengers, all seated; and Class 4—more than 22 passengers, all seated with provision for cargo.
Balmadrid, on the other hand, said Tata Philippines is all out to support the PUV Modernization Program. There’s a possibility that the Philippines can be the production hub for the Tata SFC 407. If this pushes through, Tata will provide technical support and the ownership will be 100-percent Filipino.
“We are seriously considering having a locally assembled PUV. We want to create additional employment,” Balmadrid said. Meanwhile, the LTFRB is now in the process of readying the local public transport-route plans in order for the board to issue franchises to various transport operators.