The message behind a lower court decision last month—scrapping a transport group petition to stop the Department of Transportation from implementing the Omnibus Franchising Guidelines on modernizing public utility vehicles—needs no brilliant legal mind to understand.
The Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP) is a long-overdue revamp of the public transport system in this country. This program badly needs a push for the sake of public commuters who suffer the daily indignities of standing in long queues of waiting passengers under the heat of the sun or in the middle of a downpour, inhaling the stench of passing smoke belching buses, taxis, jeepneys, trucks and private cars, desperate for a ride to the office or school, only to get caught in hours of traffic on the road once able to catch a ride, and then go through the same ordeal on their way back home later in the day.
The good old jeepney, a legacy of Filipino ingenuity in the aftermath of World War Two, has served us well all these years, but has failed to catch up with the changing needs of the public and made itself unappealing as a means of mass public transport in this age of the Internet of Things. Most people who have the means would rather use a ride-hailing app on their mobile phones to grab a little comfort on their way to their destination.
The Transportation department argued that the certificate of public convenience—practically the license to operate—issued to PUV operators is not a right but a privilege, subject to the state’s police power through the DOTr and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board.
The Quezon City court decision has paved the way for lifting the moratorium on accepting new applications for certificates of public convenience, which had been in place since 2003. “This forms part of the PUVMP that seeks to provide a safer, more comfortable and environmentally sustainable mode of public transport to commuters by upgrading vehicles to meet international safety, energy efficiency and emission standards,” according to the DOTr.
The modern PUV will have an automatic fare collection system, closed-circuit television cameras, GPS navigation system, dashboard cameras, Wi-Fi and speed limit devices—the trappings of technological modernity.
What a sigh of relief such accoutrement could bring the Filipino commuters once the program is in full swing starting 2018.
The guidelines also intend to bring order to the chaotic traffic situation we all find ourselves in, by giving local government units (LGUs) the authority to plan public transport routes based on current travel patterns in their respective areas.
This means LGUs may also be held accountable for their own mess if the traffic schemes along their respective routes prove to be messier than things stand now, because these routes—the Local Public Transport Route Plan—will serve as a basis for the issuance of franchises by the LTFRB. Not all, however, is set in stone as the routing scheme may still be tweaked for best results.
To jumpstart the program, the Development Bank of the Philippines is providing a P1.5-billion financing facility, to be signed today by Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade and DBP Chairman Alberto Romulo at the new DOTr headquarters in Clark City, Pampanga.
The DBP has developed the Program Assistance to Support Alternative Driving Approaches (PASADA) as a credit vehicle for transport corporations and cooperatives to acquire new PUVs. Supposedly, the seven-year loans are payable daily and carry a 6 percent annual interest rate.
What about the individual borrower? It looks like the government strategy is to push the public transportation sector into a corner where the more feasible option to riding on the benefits of the PUVMP is consolidation, despite the protestations of unfair policy treatment by transport groups earlier this year.
By joining a transport cooperative, the lone PUV owner—whose vehicle might be a “colorum,” lacking the backing of regulatory requirements—becomes a part of the system but abiding by its rules, which should make it easier for the government to monitor and keep in check any violation.
But no tide waits for any man and the PUVMP is good to go, signifying change and progress in the public transport system that has long been ignored and allowed to deteriorate by past administrations. Time is ripe for the public Filipino commuters to get their fares’ worth every time they take a PUV.