By Leonel Abasola

EASED OUT. Traditional jeepneys ply Kalaw Street in Manila on April 11, 2024. Senators on Friday (June 21) said jeepney drivers and local manufacturers must benefit from the Public Transport Modernization Program. (PNA photo by Yancy Lim)

MANILA – Senators on Friday said jeepney drivers and local manufacturers must benefit from the Public Transport Modernization Program (PTMP) as a leading transport builder claimed it was not consulted to design a modern jeepney.

At the hearing of the Senate Committee on Public Services, Senator Robin Padilla said that while lawmakers fully support the modernization plan, support should be given to local manufacturers.

This after Elmer Francisco, chair and chief executive officer of Francisco Motors Corporation, said they were not consulted by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in the creation of the national standard for the modern jeep.

Hindi kami kinonsulta. Ang kinonsulta ng DTI para gawin ‘yung Philippine National Standard (PNS) sa manufacturers ay ‘yung mga manufacturer ng bus sa ibang bansa (We were not consulted. The DTI consulted with foreign bus manufacturers to create the Philippine National Standard for manufacturers),” Francisco said.

He added that Sarao Motors was consulted only for a while but was then left out.

The current PNS for the modern jeepney is a product of DTI’s Bureau of Philippine Standards (BPS), working together with the Truck Manufacturer’s Association (TMA).

Included in the PNS are the class-specific requirements, as well as the provision that it must be powered by a Euro-4 emissions-compliant (or better) engine or electric motor powered by onboard batteries.

Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) chair Teofilo Guadiz III said that this is the standard set by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and they merely adopted it when the program was initiated.

Department of Transportation (DOTr) Undersecretary for Road Transport and Infrastructure Andy Ortega said there were local manufacturers and builders present when the PNS was formulated in 2017.

Committee chairperson Senator Raffy Tulfo told Ortega that the DOTr should consult first local manufacturers before going to the foreign companies.

“Stop consulting with these people, especially from China. Local manufacturers natin capable sila. Sana binibigyan natin sila ng respeto (Our local manufacturers are capable. Let’s give them respect),” he said.

Meanwhile, Senator Grace Poe, who formerly chaired the Senate Public Services Committee as well as prior hearings on the PTMP (formerly the Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program or PUVMP), said the DOTr should prioritize the completion of the route plans before reducing the PUV units.

To better control the number of vehicles plying a particular route, the government is instituting a one route, one franchise policy and is already in talks with several local government units (LGUs) to scrutinize the current routes, develop new routes if necessary, and streamline any of the current ones.

Tulfo, however, expressed his concern about the LGUs’ participation in creating routes as it may be used for personal gain.

He urged the DOTr and the LTFRB, with the help of the operators, to take charge of drawing up the routes.

Poe said the high cost of modern jeepney, lack of route plans and inadequate safety nets have brought uncertainties to the livelihood of thousands of drivers and hardship to many commuters who have to deal with fewer PUVs plying the roads.

“Throughout the seven years, this committee has never stopped asking the DOTr to revisit the program while we begged for cooperation from the drivers-operators and commuters,” Poe said.

She asked the DOTr to prioritize the completion of the route plans before reducing the current number of PUVs to ensure enough ride for commuters, as well as its plans for the 36,217 PUVs that did not join cooperatives.

She also reiterated her proposal to tap local jeepney manufacturers that can offer more affordable modern jeepney units.

“The DOTr should also provide cooperatives and corporations proper management, accounting, and human resources training, including effective grievance mechanisms for transport entities,” she said. (PNA)