Gov’t stands firm on PUV modernization year end deadline, operators oppose

By: Thea Divina
December 18, 2023

Tens of thousands of jeepney operators face potential illegal operation in 2024 as the PUV modernization deadline looms. Photo courtesy of Rappler.

The government’s public utility vehicle (PUV) modernization program which began in 2017 is now nearing its due date as PUV drivers are mandated to consolidate their operations on or before December 31, 2023.

The program, dubbed as the "Jeepney Phaseout," targets to replace the country's traditional jeepneys and other public transportation with electric-powered or Euro 4 compliant vehicles. It will also be administered on PUVs that do not adhere to Land Transportation Office (LTO) standards for roadworthiness.

According to media reports, the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) issued the phaseout plan in 2002, but it was never strongly adopted.


Transport crisis through the years

Since January 2016, transport group Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (Piston) started protesting against the DOTC’s agenda and persuading the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) and Land Transportation Office (LTO) on accepting registration applications for old jeepneys. 

The first of many transport strikes began in February 2017 spearheaded by the Stop and Go transport coalition which reportedly affected thousands of passengers forcing suspension of work and classes within Manila and Malabon cities. 

The LTFRB then called for a discussion resulting in dissatisfaction of the involved party and a second strike staged in the same month. 

In January 2018, the Tanggal Bulok, Tanggal Usok campaign was implemented. It tags smoke-belching vehicles and issues temporary operator’s permits for vehicles with defective parts and accessories. Jeepneys at the University of the Philippines Diliman were flagged which affected 95 drivers. 

The PUV modernization faced several extensions with reasons of slow increase in number of consolidated vehicles and when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020 hampering the transport sector among other industries.

Four transport strikes were widely held this year during the months of March, October, November, and December. The supposed second strike last July was canceled in light of inclement weather due to bagyong ‘Egay’.


Steep price to pay

A modern jeepney costs between P1.4 million and P3 million, depending on the unit as per the DOTr.

Meanwhile, a third of the P3 million that other electric vehicle manufacturers are asking for each unit of their electric jeepneys can be purchased for less than P1 million from a local manufacturer.

The first 1,000 electric jeepneys made by Francisco Motors are expected to retail for P985,000.

The e-jeeps also resemble a similar design to the current traditional jeepney built with an air conditioner, seating 11 people on each side and space for eight standing passengers.

Numerous transportation cooperatives, such as the CAZANOVA Transport Service cooperative situated in Novaliches, Quezon City, have expressed their desire to reserve units.

As the final deadline approaches with no further extensions as announced by incumbent President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., major transport groups Piston and Manibela are set to conduct another two-week long transport strike beginning December 18 in protest of the broad ban on unconsolidated PUVs starting January of next year.

An LTFRB memorandum circular released December 14 states that the permit to operate of PUV operators who fail to consolidate or at least apply for consolidation on or before the December 31 deadline will be revoked come January 1, 2024.

Media reports indicate only 84,809 out of 149,448 jeepney units (56.75%) have filed for consolidation nationwide, compared to Marcos's nearly 70% rate.