MANILA — Agri Party-list Rep. Wilbert T. Lee underscored the importance of seriously addressing the issues raised by jeepney drivers and operators on the implementation of the Public Utility Vehicle (PUV) Modernization Program.
During the House Committee on Transportation’s meeting yesterday (March 9), where the Department of Transportation (DOTr) presented the status of the implementation of the PUV modernization program, Lee pointed out that this should not be implemented hastily as this will result to loss of livelihood for many of our countrymen.
“The transport sector is not only a public service but most importantly, a source of livelihood. Napakarami nating kababayan ang umaasa sa kabuhayang ito,” Lee said.
“6 years, 6 extensions and one pandemic have passed since the launch of this program but the dominant and critical issues are still the same. Maingat po natin dapat solusyunan ang problema ukol sa modernization, which we should welcome primarily for the sake of the environment,” the solon from Sorsogon added.
Lee then appealed to the government to address the high and unaffordable cost of modern jeepneys, saying that a jeepney driver or operator who earns about P600-750 a day cannot afford to buy a new jeepney worth P1.6-2.3 million.
“We should provide an acceptable paying scheme which must be just, fair and humane. They should be allowed to pay for a modern jeepney in 10 to 15 years instead of 7 years or the government can provide a higher and adequate subsidy. Ma-a-address po natin dito yung problema at malaking pangamba na malulubog ang mga driver at operator sa utang sa pagkuha ng bagong unit,” Lee said.
During the DOTr’s briefing, the lawmaker asked the agency to come up with a single design, resembling the iconic style of the traditional jeepney, that both local and foreign manufacturers can assemble and compete selling in the market.
“Mahalaga po na ma-retain ang iconic design ng traditional jeepney dahil nakatatak na ito bilang bahagi ng ating kultura at identidad. Mahirap naman kung iba-iba ang hitsura ng jeepney. Yung nakikita kasi natin ngayon na pumapasada, hindi naman mukhang jeepney, kundi mas mukhang mini bus. Huwag nating hayaang mawala ang iconic design ng jeepney tulad ng pagkawala ng mga kalesa,” Lee said.
“Then we can mass produce our iconic jeepney with the necessary upgrades that can create a new industry na pwede pa natin ma-export pagdating ng panahon,” he added.
Lee also insisted that an individual driver or operator who did not wish to be part of a cooperative/consolidation should be allowed to continue on this livelihood without having to register as a corporation sole since it needs stringent and burdensome requirements like having to post a substantial amount for bond.
Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) Chair Teofilo Guadiz III said they will consider Lee’s suggestions in revisiting the modernization program.
Lee also shared that he intends to file a bill which seeks to promote the local manufacturing of affordable and environment-friendly iconic jeepneys, with acceptable and fair paying schemes for operators and drivers.
“Tulad ng panawagan natin noon sa nakaraang budget deliberation, hindi dapat apurahin ang implementasyon ng PUV modernization. Hindi ito dapat maging mabigat na pasanin sa mga driver at operator pati na sa ating commuters para Winner Tayo Lahat.