By Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos

((File photo))

MANILA – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. has extended the consolidation deadline for public utility vehicles until April 30, Malacañang announced Wednesday.

Communications Secretary Cheloy Garafil said Marcos extended the deadline upon the recommendation of Transport Secretary Jaime Bautista.

“President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has approved Transport Secretary Jaime J. Bautista’s recommendation, granting an additional three months until April 30, 2024 for the consolidation of public utility vehicles,” Garafil said in a statement.

“This extension is to give an opportunity to those who expressed intention to consolidate but did not make the previous cut-off,” she added.

Last month, Marcos rejected calls to extend the Dec. 31 deadline for the consolidation of PUV operators and drivers.

The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board reported that 145,721 units 0r 76 percent of PUVs and utility vehicle (UV) express have consolidated.

PUVs that failed to consolidate under cooperatives on Dec. 31, 2023 and those plying routes with no cooperatives can operate until Jan. 31 only.

Unconsolidated jeepneys in routes with at least 60 percent of units that consolidated would no longer be able to renew their provisional authorities to operate.

Under the government’s PUV Modernization Program, operators and drivers will be organized into cooperatives or corporations to ensure the efficiency of its operations with an upgraded fleet of low-carbon emission, safe and efficient PUV units.

In a statement, LTFRB chairperson Teofilo Guadiz said the Board will adhere to President Marcos’s directive to extend the consolidation of PUVs until April 30.

“Operators and drivers are encouraged to take advantage of this opportunity provided by the President,” he said.Speaker Martin Romualdez welcomed President Marcos’ decision, stressing that the Chief Executive “is not blind nor deaf to the sentiments and concerns of the people.”

He said the President recognizes the issue’s impact on the local transportation sector and that it comes at a crucial time when the community navigates challenges in the transport industry.

The decision of the President came after Romualdez and other House leaders met leaders of transport groups and transport officials led by LTFRB Board Chairman Teofilo Guadiz III.

“Nadinig kaagad ‘yung ating hinaing po, kaya may extension tayo kaagad (Our concerns were immediately heard, that’s why we have an immediate extension),” Romualdez told the media.

“The jeepney has long been a symbol of our nation’s vibrant culture and enduring spirit. At ipe-preserve natin ‘yan (We will preserve it),” Romualdez told some 100 jeepneys drivers during a dialogue at the House of Representatives.

The House Committee on Transportation has adopted a resolution urging President Marcos to reconsider the lapsed Dec. 31 consolidation deadline.

During its motu proprio hearing Wednesday, the panel approved the resolution calling for an extension of the consolidation period until the government can “come up with a concrete plan to address the major issues” in the program’s implementation.

“While the intention of the PUVMP is beyond question and considering that the modernization of public transportation is long overdue, the needed reforms must be done in accordance with law and due process to ensure the protection of the affected stakeholders and the riding public in general,” the resolution read. (with reports from Jose Cielito Reganit/Filane Cervantes/PNA)