By Alexandria San Juan
Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) chairman Martin Delgra III maintained that the government is firm to implement its public utility vehicle (PUV) modernization program even beyond the supposed June 2020 deadline.
“What is very clear is that the modernization [program] will push through. It maybe a little slow as there are challenges that we need to face or quite a little fast but the point here is we need to continue implementing the modernization program,” Delgra said in a press conference on Monday.
This was the LTFRB chief’s response to transport groups who staged a nationwide strike also on Monday to protest the proposed phase-out of public utility jeepneys and UV Express service vehicles through the government’s modernization plan.
Delgra said that they will not delay the implementation of the PUVMP despite protests from other transport unions as it is already “long overdue” and is supported by the public.
“I have to say also that there are a lot more groups, operators, drivers, and most especially commuters, who are very supportive of the modernization program,” he said.
Transportation officials targeted to modernize at least 170,000 PUJs by mid-2020 since the program was launched in 2017. However, only 18,000 PUVMP-compliant units are currently operating as of the recent data from the LTFRB.
According to Delgra, the transition phase will end by June 2020 but assured that they will continue to implement the modernization program afterward.
“It’s everyone’s relief that you will have a modern transport system by June 2020. As I’ve said, if we achieve that, well and good, if not, we will continue until all transport system is modernized,” he added.
Franchise to be suspended
Meanwhile, Delgra mentioned that they will comply with the directive of the DOTr and will implement its policy to penalize PUV operators and drivers who joined the transport strike for violating a memorandum issued by the agency.
Under Memorandum Circular 2011-004, Delgra said PUV franchise holders are prohibited to stop operations to join any strike or protest against the government or they may face suspension or even cancellation and revocation of their franchise.
“To those PUV operators who joined or will join in any transport strike, that is a violation on the franchise given to you by the government. Therefore, we need to address the issue firmly. If we found out that they participated, which is a violation of that policy, it’s either we suspend or cancel their franchise,” he warned.
As of the latest count, Delgra said that at least 25 franchises were canceled by the Board for participating in separate transport strikes last 2017 and early this year.
The LTFRB chairman also urged transport groups to undergo dialogue, consultation and workshop regarding the PUVMP instead of holding transport strike.
“Staging a transport strike is not an option especially if it is an inconvenience to the riding public and that’s what is happening right now. That’s precisely why the government is firm in having to address those who violate the privilege of their franchise that was given to them to render public service,” he added.