By Emmie V. Abadilla
The government intends to push through with its Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP) although transport agencies are reviewing the timeline so that franchises must be consolidated by next year, with the transition period ending June, 2020.
“March, 2019 is a timeline, not a deadline, bearing in mind that the transition period is until June 2020 — three years after the launching of the PUVMP and the signing of the Omnibus Franchising Guidelines (OFG),” Department of Transportation (DOTr) Assistant Secretary for Road Transport Mark De Leon clarified.
“Units are not going to be replaced and franchises are not going to be cancelled. We’re talking of consolidation of units which we are currently implementing,” he added.
“We shall continue with the PUVMP. For the sake of this country, let us have political will. No delays, no postponement, let us get this done,” stressed DOTr Secretary Arthur Tugade.
Already, the modernization of land-based public transport has started and will continue, according to Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board Chairman Martin Delgra.
There is no stopping the PUV Modernization Program, no matter the challenges, he underscored. “Allow us to state categorically that the PUV Modernization Program is a go. It is currently being implemented, as it is happening now. Not in another decade, but now.”
Both officials reacted to reports following last week’s Senate hearing regarding Memorandum Circulars 2018-006 and 2018-008, which set the guidelines for the program’s initial implementation and the consolidation of franchises.
Under MC 2018-008, individual operators are encouraged to consolidate to participate in the modernization program.
Current franchises of those who are unable or unwilling to participate in the PUVMP after March, 2019 will remain valid during the transition period.
They may continue to use their existing units until the end of the transition, subject to the provisions of their current franchises.
So far, 484 cooperatives have been formed. 131 of which were already issued franchises covering 3,273 authorized units.
Transport officials did not say that the program implementation will be postponed or delayed, but committed to review the timeline that says franchises must be consolidated by March, 2019, DOTr Assistant Secretary De Leon reiterated.
“We have taken the initial bold step towards progress. We need leaders who can tell us where else we can do better, not tell us why it cannot be done. It’s a bitter pill to swallow, and it may not be popular among a certain sector, but that does not make it wrong,” Secretary Tugade maintained.