John Carlo Mago and Audrei Jeremy Mendador

Transport group Manibela Chairman Mar Valbuena called for the suspension and review of the PUV Modernization Program on Thursday, following the 90-day extension for franchise consolidation.

“Panawagan natin na i-suspend ito totally para lahat ng mga loopholes nito [ay] maayos natin at baka mas may makita tayong ibang way na mag-succeed itong programa,” Valbuena said in an interview with ANC’s Headstart.
While they welcome the extension, he said that the government should eliminate the franchise consolidation deadline to give drivers and operators the autonomy to decide whether they want to consolidate or not. Due to the deadlines, Valbuena shared instances where drivers and operators were compelled to consolidate but did not want to modernize their units. “Papaano po magiging successful ‘yung programa kung ganito ‘yung kaisipan na tumatatak doon sa ating mga kasamahan dahil nga mawawalan na sila ng pag-aari, mawawalan na sila ng karapatan doon sa kanilang units,” he said. Valbuena added that those who prefer not to consolidate but wish to modernize and rehabilitate should be allowed. This, he believes, could create a “win-win situation.” “Hindi po namin kinakailangan na magtaas ng pamasahe dahil mura 'yung pagpapagawa namin sa jeepney at kung mabibigyan pa kami ng subsidy [ay] mas malaking bagay pa ito sa amin,” he said. Franchise consolidation is the first requirement of the modernization program. Following Transport Secretary Jaime J. Bautista’s recommendation, Marcos moved its deadline to April 30 on Wednesday "to give an opportunity to those who expressed intention to consolidate but did not make the previous cut-off." The president previously said that there would be no more extensions for franchise consolidation in order to follow the “current timeline.” The deadline underwent several changes from its original cutoff dates — December 2021, June 2022, March 2023, and June 2023 — before it was set to Dec. 31 last year. Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) Chair Teofilo Guadiz III said they will adhere to the President’s decision and encouraged drivers and operators to “take advantage of this opportunity.” Valbuena said that the DOTr and LTFRB should not use the franchise consolidation as the sole justification for improving the country’s public transportation service. He further stated, “Kaya po natin na sumunod at mapaganda ‘yung public transport system natin kahit hindi po tayo naka-consolidate.” Before the announcement of the extension, Valbuena, along with other jeepney drivers and operators, met with House Speaker Martin Romualdez for a dialogue on the modernization program. He said Romualdez assured them that their concerns would be conveyed to the president. Valbuena added that there will be more dialogues with the House speaker starting next week to continuously call for the suspension and review of the PUV modernization program.
Edited by Alyanna Chargaile Bunayog