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Senator Win Gatchalian to DOTr: Time to revisit Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program

PASAY CITY, Philippines – Members of the Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (PISTON) during their protest rally outside the Senate building as seen in this 22 Sept 2016 file image. Transportation Undersecretary Mark Richmund De Leon during his department’s 2020 budget hearing recently said the DOTr is eyeing to replace half of the PUJs in the country in the next three years, which are old and dilapidated. Photo by Mark Cayabyab/OS WIN GATCHALIAN

Senator Win Gatchalian is urging the Department of Transportation to go back to the drawing board and revisit its public utility vehicle modernization program (PUVMP) amid lukewarm reception from majority of transport groups.

Gatchalian, chairman of the Committee on Finance (Subcommittee E), made the call when he presided over the hearing of the department’s ₱147-billion budget for 2020.

During the hearing, Gatchalian grilled the DOTr on its goal to modernize and rationalize the country’s public transport system, which the government launched in 2015. The lawmaker questioned the slow rollout of the program since its inception, saying that the disbursement rate of the program is only about 4%.

“Ang common feedback na nakukuha ko ay napakahirap daw mag-comply sa mga dokumento pagdating sa isyu ng financing,” Gatchalian pointed out. “Mataas masyado iyong interest rates na binibigay nung banko at iyong technology required – yung cashless payment – mayroong problema dito.”

“Meaning we really have to revisit this program. On top of revisiting the strategy itself, we also have to revisit the program itself. Maraming mga bottlenecks. Kaya yung take up, as reflected in the documents, mabagal na mabagal,” he added.

DOTr Undersecretary Mark Richmund De Leon told senators during the hearing that the department is eyeing to replace half of the PUJs in the country in the next three years, which are old and dilapidated.

Data from the DOTr shows that public utility buses (PUBs) and public utility jeepneys (PUJs) serve 67% of demand but use 28% of road space. There are 234,739 PUJs nationwide, of which 90% are at least 15 years old.

DOTr Secretary Arturo Tugade said that they have put in place subsidies to encourage PUJ operators to replace their old jeepneys with modern and environmental-friendly vehicles.

Tugade estimated that the cheapest units valued at around ₱900,000 will have an amortization of ₱500 per day. The larger nits valued at P1.6 million, on the other hand, will have an amortization of ₱1,000 per day.

The DOTr reported that at least 575 units had been provided with loans amounting to ₱1 billion while ₱2.4 billion are now in the pipeline for application for 1,238 units. At present, there are already 2,595 units operating in 320 routes while over 130,000 members consolidated themselves into 952 cooperatives.

De Leon also told the senators that adoption of newer PUJs had been successful in Taguig, to which the lawmaker from Valenzuela replied: “Taguig is not the whole Philippines. We need to study root by root kung ilang jeep ba talaga ang kailangan na bumabyahe sa kalsada. That is a more scientific and methodical way.”

“The senators support this program. You have our support. All we need is to understand the strategy of replacing the PUVs on the basis of root cause analysis,” Gatchalian said.

“I want this before we hear this in plenary. We are giving you approximately almost one month. Before we hear it in plenary, I want you to submit this, because the amount we are talking about is a huge amount,” he added.