Want a PUV franchise? Plant a tree first

By: Mariejo S. Ramos - Philippine Daily Inquirer | November 22,2020 - 07:59 AM

MANILA, Philippines —  The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) will start requiring transport cooperatives, corporations and individual operators with at least 10 public utility vehicles (PUVs) to plant trees before they apply for new franchises or when renewing them.

Under an LTFRB memorandum circular issued on Friday, an applicant is required to plant a tree for each PUV that needs a franchise. The memo takes effect on Dec. 1.

The regulatory agency expects 50,000 trees to be planted within the next three months, “at the very least to mitigate the impact of natural calamities.”

Tugade’s survey

After three months, all franchise applicants, including those that have less than 10 PUVs, must plant a tree for every vehicle, it added.

“This board, as part of our responsibility to conserve and protect our environment, has agreed to initiate efforts by undertaking to plant trees in the entire Philippines, and thereafter require our stakeholders, who have similar responsibility to our environment and to the next generation … to plant trees, as a precondition for issuance of certificate of public convenience,” the circular said.

According to the LTFRB, the order stemmed from a survey by Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade of the floods triggered by Typhoon “Ulysses’ (international name: Vamco) in Cagayan province last week.

Where, when to plant

Tugade, a native of Cagayan, said he saw the need for dredging the heavily silted Cagayan River and reforesting the watersheds in the region.

LTFRB Region II director Edward Cabase proposed the tree planting program and it was acknowledged and supported by Tugade, the agency said in a statement.

PUV operators would have to coordinate with their respective local governments or the local offices of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to identify where and how the trees should be planted, the memo said.

Proof of compliance

The local government or the DENR will then issue a proof of compliance or certification, which operators must include in their franchise application.

The order said that “failure to attach this requirement shall cause nonacceptance of their application.”

The LTFRB memo did not specify what kind of trees should be planted and where the seedlings could be obtained or bought.

“Imagine, if part of the responsibility in getting a franchise or license from all government offices is to plant trees in areas chosen by the local government and the Department of Natural Resources, we would be helping in this [flooding] problem,” the transport department quoted Tugade as saying after his survey of the flood damage in Tuguegarao on Nov. 15.

Is it practical?

Told of the LTFRB memo, jeepney operator Freddie Hernandez, 52, said he was in “full support” of the tree-planting initiative.

“I have long been thinking of how the transport cooperative can pay the environment back for whatever harm is caused by the exhaust fumes of our vehicles,” said Hernandez, who heads the Taguig Transport Service Cooperative.

Procuring and planting tree saplings in complying with the directive ‘’will not cost that much,” he said.

As early as 2017, Hernandez and other members of the cooperative members agreed to replace their conventional jeepneys with the “more environment-friendly” Euro-4 minibuses under the government’s PUV modernization program.

But for provincial bus operator Alex Yague, “the objective of planting trees is very laudable and all Filipinos must … support it, but asking PUV operators to do it is not practical.”

“Maybe the fees paid by PUV operators in the registration can be used to fund reforestation programs, which must be planned with the DENR, DA (Department of Agriculture) and other agencies involved in climate change [issues],” Yague said.

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