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Piston eyes SC relief on PUV co-op deadline

By: Dexter Cabalaza - Philippine Daily Inquirer | December 17,2023 - 04:13 PM

Public utility vehicle (PUV) drivers demonstrate on Friday outside the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board headquarters to protest the PUV Modernization Program and the Dec. 31 deadline for them to form cooperatives with consolidated franchises.

‘WHY ARE WE OBLIGATED?’ | Public utility vehicle (PUV) drivers demonstrate on Friday, Dec. 15, 2023, outside the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board headquarters to protest the PUV Modernization Program and the Dec. 31, 2023, deadline for them to form cooperatives with consolidated franchises. (Photo by LYN RILLON / Philippine Daily Inquirer)

MANILA, Philippines — Besides waging a weekslong strike, a transport group is also considering a petition before the Supreme Court to stop the Dec. 31 deadline for public utility vehicle (PUV) operators to form cooperatives with consolidated franchises.

Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (Piston) president Mody Floranda said the group is considering a petition questioning the legality of the government’s Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP).

“The PUVMP is not a law. It is only [a directive] from the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB),” Floranda said in an interview on dwPM on Saturday.

“Why are we obligated to get into the PUVMP when we understand it is only voluntary and not mandatory?” he added.

Financial burden

Floranda said legal associates are studying the PUVMP, but he did not say when the group would petition the high court.

On June 29, 2017, the DOTr issued Department Order No. 2017-011, or the “Omnibus Guidelines on the Planning and Identification of Public Road Transportation Services and Franchise Issuance,” also known as the Omnibus Franchising Guidelines, which launched the PUVMP.

The program aims “to fundamentally transform the public transport system in the country making both commuting and public transportation operations more dignified, humane, and on par with global standards.”

On Dec. 12, LTFRB issued Memorandum Circular No. 2023-051, allowing the operations of consolidated transport entities to ply the roads under their existing provisional authority.

However, PUVs that have not consolidated by Dec. 31, shall have their provisional authorities “deemed revoked” by Jan. 1, 2024.

Holiday rush

Transport groups have clarified they were not against the PUVMP itself but were asking the government to simplify the program so as not to make it a financial burden to operators.

Strikes have been staged by different groups since March, particularly against the requirement for PUVs to consolidate into cooperatives or corporations.

For the DOTr and LTFRB, franchise consolidation would make it easier for PUV operators to secure loans for purchasing new units, facilitating route rationalization based on passenger demand, implementing a fixed salary scheme for drivers, and running their units “in a systematic and predictable manner.”

The LTFRB initially set the consolidation deadline on June 30, but this was moved to Dec. 31, following a clamor for that postponement from the transport sector. President Marcos said on Tuesday there would be no further postponement after Dec. 31.

Piston and Manibela on Friday announced that they would launch another nationwide strike, spanning 12 days from Dec. 18 to Dec. 29.

The planned protest action will coincide with the holiday rush this Christmas season.

The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) said it was ready to support the commuting public.

“If they say that the transport strike will last for two weeks, then we’re also ready for two weeks to minimize the inconvenience it will give to the riding public,” MMDA Chair Don Artes said on Saturday.


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TAGS: consolidation, franchise, Piston, PUV, Supreme Court

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