By Perfecto T. Raymundo, Jr.

QUEZON CITY – Senator Imee Marcos on Thursday (Dec. 28) urged the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to revoke the “deadlines” imposed on the Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP).

The deadline for the consolidation of public transport vehicles has been set on Dec. 31, 2023.

In a statement on Thursday, Sen. Marcos said that a widespread transport strike greets the public on Dec. 29 into the New Year.

“We can only pity the drivers, transport operators, commuters, workers, students, businesses, and small entrepreneurs who rely on jeeps and PUVs daily,” Marcos said.

“I call on the DOTr to revoke the ‘deadly deadlines’ of the PUV modernization program that have fallen short of compliance since 2017. Clearly, there is a need to return to exhaustive meetings and consultations with all groups of operators, drivers, and commuters,” she added.

The senator interposed the questions: “Who doesn’t want a new vehicle? But with the high cost of living, how many can afford one?”

Sen. Marcos noted that the government subsidy of Php210,000 to Php280,000 is just a fraction of the Php2.5-million cost of a new Euro-4 PUV. Nor has the trade-in value of old vehicles been determined, and plying transport routes these days only earns a measly income due to the high price of gasoline.

“Even dealers of new vehicles, spare parts, and maintenance services are not ready to meet the sudden demand. The TESDA itself admitted that it has only prepared for the repair of Euro-2 PUVs,” she said.

“And why should thousands of operators and drivers be forced to become members of transport cooperatives? Having been owners and small entrepreneurs, will they become mere employees in a coop?” she added.

The senator said that If an operator or driver takes out a loan, will this be guaranteed by the coop? If loan payments become problematic, will the coop answer for them, or will the bank tow away the vehicle subject to the loan?

“With the high cost of buying a new vehicle, what increase in transport fares will there be?” Sen. Marcos said.

“Complex as these issues are, we would do well to listen to the grievances of PUV operators, drivers, and commuters. Above all, the LTO and DOTr should quit threatening them with deadlines, suspensions, and franchise revocations!” Marcos added.