By Leonel Abasola

(PNA file photo by Ben Briones)

MANILA – Transport group Manibela will spearhead a nationwide protest against the Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP) on Tuesday.

The group clarified on Facebook on Sunday that it will be a protest — not a strike — alongside another group, Piston, and other sectors.

In Metro Manila, the movement will assemble 9 a.m. at University of the Philippines-Diliman in Quezon City, march toward España in Manila, converge at Mabuhay (Welcome) Rotonda that separates Manila and Quezon City, and move to Chino Roces Bridge (Mendiola) in Manila for the protest program.

A Facebook post by Manibela also thanked students who signified their intentions to join the protest and call for the retention of PUV franchises.

Accordingly, some schools already posted announcements of a shift to online mode on Tuesday in anticipation of a public transport paralysis.

Sama sama po nating ipanawagan at ipagtanggol ang ating mga prangkisa at kabuhayan. Sama sama nating katukin ang pintuan ng Malacañang at ang Pangulo! Triplehen natin ang dami nito (Let us come together to call for and defend our franchises and livelihood. Let us unite in knocking at the doors of Malacañang and the President! Let’s triple our efforts),” Manibela posted on Facebook shortly before 11 p.m. on Sunday.

PUVs that failed to consolidate under cooperatives on Dec. 31, 2023 and those plying the routes with no cooperatives can operate until Jan. 31 only.

Unconsolidated jeepneys in routes with at least 60 percent of units that consolidated would no longer be able to renew their provisional authorities to operate.

The government will extend necessary assistance to all drivers of unconsolidated jeepneys and UV (Utility Vehicle) Express to find employment within transport cooperatives and corporations or through other aids, the Office of Transportation Cooperatives, Department of Labor and Employment and Department of Social Welfare and Development have repeatedly said.

The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board reported that 145,721 units or 76 percent of public utility vehicles and UV express have consolidated.

The Department of Transportation (DOTr) also rectified misinformation against the PUVMP, “evidently intended to misinform, incite anxiety, and create confusion,” according to a previous statement.

Among the points raised by DOTr were the certification of 54 PUV models that are compliant with the provisions of the Philippine National Standards; cooperatives are free to choose which type they prefer and can afford; no government agency or official is forcing any cooperative or transport group to buy the most expensive model; equity subsidy for cooperatives have been substantially increased to assist in the procurement of modern units; and the burden of paying the units will be shouldered by the cooperative, not the drivers.

“Welfare of passengers and commuters was the prime goal of the program,” the DOTr said.(PNA)