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PBBM defers jeep phaseout

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Seeks review of PUV modernization timetable, but strike threat still on

President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. on Wednesday said the government will review the timetable for its modernization program for public utility vehicles, but a move by regulators to push the phaseout of traditional jeepneys from June 30 to Dec. 31 failed to scuttle plans by one transport group to hold a week-long strike beginning March 6.

“We’ll talk about it,” Mr. Marcos told reporters on the sidelines of an event at the Rizal Park in the City of Manila, when asked if the scheduled phaseout of traditional jeepneys on June 30 would push through as part of the public utility vehicle (PUV) modernization program.

He said he would study the appropriate timetable for introducing electric jeepneys, but said it was “still not urgent” to mandate the use of modern vehicles.

“We have to review the timetable. It’s not that simple. Car manufacturers are saying that we are encouraging electric vehicles but we still need to fix our source of power,” Marcos added.

While Marcos acknowledged that it is necessary to implement the PUV modernization program, he noted that there are several issues that need to be addressed, including the country’s apparent lack of capability to depend on electric vehicles.

Marcos said he would also consider the condition of the traditional jeepneys, with passenger safety in mind.

“Perhaps, we could inspect the old vehicles and check if we could still use those,” Marcos said in Filipino. “So, these are the issues that we need to study.”

On Tuesday, the Senate unanimously adopted the resolution filed by Senator Grace Poe urging the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) to postpone the planned phaseout of old jeepneys.

Various transport groups have announced their plan to stage a week-long strike starting March 6 to contest the impending phaseout of traditional jeepneys.

Marcos hoped that the public transport groups would reconsider their planned strike.

At the same time, he said, the government would offer free rides to commuters if the seven-day transport strike pushes through.

The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) on Wednesday extended the deadline for public utility jeepney franchise consolidation from June 30 to Dec. 31.

Assistant Secretary Teofilo Guadiz III, who heads the LTFRB, said the extension was in response to the appeal of transport groups, and said it would give them enough time to consolidate.

He denied being pressured to extend the deadline because of the strike threat.

Guadiz said over 90 percent of the transport sector backed the modernization program.

But Mar Valbuena, chairman of the Manibela transport group, said the strike would continue as planned.

On the other hand, the National Public Transport Coalition (NPTC) announced the cancellation of the mass transport strike scheduled for next week to protest the modernization program.

NPTC chairman Ariel Lim said the transport strike was postponed to give way to the Senate’s ongoing probe of the PUV modernization program.

“This is to show our sincerity to the government on their request to temporarily postpone the mass transport strike and out of respect to the President, but still we will push through with our demands and for the House to also pass a law with regards to the PUV modernization program,” Lim also said.

A group of Transportation Network Vehicle Service (TNVS) drivers said they will not participate in the one week transport strike.

“The TNVS Community jointly made a strong commitment and shall not join any call for Tigil Pasada,” the group said in its Facebook post.

“We, the TNVS Community shall continue to reliably and safely serve our riding public,” it added.

Valbuena, earlier said more than 100,000 jeepney and UV Express drivers in Metro Manila, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, Bicol Region, and Cagayan De Oro are expected to participate in the strike to protest the government’s PUV modernization program.

Pasig City Vice Mayor Robert Jaworski Jr. said that their local government unit is aiming to provide a ‘Libreng Sakay’ program to its constituents if the strike pushes through.

“The national government has come out with directives. We, in the local government unit of Pasig City, needed to follow those directives. But we are going to discuss what possible intervention we can provide. Maybe we will try to provide some ‘Libreng Sakay’ for those who will be affected by the strike,” Jaworski said.

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