By Raymond Carl Dela Cruz

MODERN JEEP. Jennilyn Capate, a single mom of three, works as passenger assistant (conductor) of a modern jeepney plying Philcoa-Cubao in Quezon City. Several representatives of transport cooperatives on Friday (Jan. 19, 2024) testified how the public utility vehicle modernization program has been better for the transport sector — for PUV workers, passengers and the public. (PNA photo by Joey O. Razon)

MANILA – Leaders of public transport cooperatives on Friday enumerated the benefits — including fixed salary and Christmas bonuses –that drivers receive, saying the government’s Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP) secures drivers’ livelihood.

Pandacan Transport Service Multi-Purpose Cooperative (PTSMPC) chair Edmundo Cadavona said PUV drivers would get a fixed salary with overtime pay as well as social benefits such as SSS, Philhealth and Pag-IBIG.

“Aside from that, tumatanggap din sila ng 13th month pay and bonuses pagdating ng kapaskuhan (They also receive 13th month pay and bonuses during Christmas),” Cadavona said in a press conference organized by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB).

The PTSMPC operates 60 PUVs and has 120 members.

“Ibig sabihin, kung employee, driver ka may-ari na rin sila ng ating kooperatiba (What this means is, if you’re an employee, driver, you own a part of our cooperative),” he said.

Ferdinand Lupangosy, chair of the 997 Sandigan Transport Service Cooperative (997) said a total of 242 families are benefiting from the 35 modern PUVs their cooperative is operating.

“Ako po ay may 35 modern units na tumatakbo at ito po’y pinakikinabangan ng 93 members namin at 65 na drivers, 65 conductors, at allied workers na 16 (We have 35 operational modern units and it is benefitting 93 members, 65 drivers, 65 conductors, and 16 allied workers),” he said.

Freddie Hernandez, chair of Taguig Transport Service Cooperative (TTSC), said modernization was a difficult process, especially as they were one of the first to avail of the PUVMP.

“Kami po ‘yung pilot ng modernization. Since 2018 po kami nag-start. Inilatag po ‘yan sa amin ng gobyerno at 2017 po ‘yung modernization (We piloted the modernization. We started in 2018 after the government rolled out the PUVMP in 2017),” Hernandez said.

The PUVMP, he said, is not only about replacing old PUVs with new ones, but about securing their livelihoods and providing better service to commuters.

With modern PUVs, there are more jobs for transport workers as most modern PUVs need a driver and a passenger assistance officer, aside from support jobs such as auto mechanics and office staff.

He said modern PUVs benefit not only those working in the transport sector and their passengers but also the public by being better for the environment.

“Dalawang batas po ang yayapusin kapag sumunod sa programa ng gobyerno, ‘yung Republic Act No. 8749 na Clean Air Act saka po ‘yung Republic Act No. 9729, Climate Change Act (You’ll be embracing two government programs with the PUVMP, Republic Act No. 8749 or the Clean Air Act and Republic Act No. 9729, or the Climate Change Act),” he said.

He said one important aspect of the PUVMP is fleet management or controlling how many PUVs are operating on certain routes at any given time.

“Kasi po, kapag individual franchise operation, sa umaga kanya kanya pong diskarte ng mga operator at driver. Saan ako magsisimula, saan ako pupunta? Ang isang masakit dun, kapag kumita na si driver o si operator, uuwi na (Because, with individual franchise operation, in the morning each operator and driver will have their own plans. Where will they start, where are they going? And what’s painful is once the driver or operator earns enough, they can decide to just go home),” Lupangosy said.

However, he said cooperatives have control over the dispatching of PUVs and are responsible for making sure that PUVs are operating in their routes.

“Ina-assure po namin na kung pu-pwede, 24/7 ang operation namin para po lahat ng mananakay maserbisyuhan ng tama (We assure you that if possible, we’ll operate 24/7 so that all commuters will be given proper service),” he said.

The TTSC operates the routes along Bagumbayan, Taguig – Pasig Palengke, and has around 400 members.

Ramil Padrigo, chair of Cubao Rosario Sta. Lucia Transport Service Cooperative (CURODA), said fleet management allows for better service to commuters by increasing the number of PUVs during peak hours.

During rush hours, he said a PUV gets dispatched every two to three minutes and during non-peak hours, PUVs are dispatched every five to seven minutes.

“Simula ng madaling araw hanggang 12 ng gabi po ‘yan. Tuloy-tuloy po ‘yun. At hindi nag-aagawan ng pasahero (That begins early morning until midnight. And that’s continuous, there’s no need to compete over passengers),” he said.

In the previous “boundary” system — where operators rent out their jeepneys to drivers for a fixed fee — drivers are pressured to make as much money as possible to pay for their boundary.

“’Yung mga boundary system, ‘yung mga driver, kung nasan mga pasahero, kahit cutting trip iikot na po ‘yan. Hindi makakarating sa end point. So, napaka-ganda ng fleet management (With the boundary system, drivers are incentivized to go where passengers are. They’ll cut their trips short and loop back to where passengers are. They won’t reach the endpoint. That’s why fleet management is better),” he said.

He said passengers have often remarked how much more convenient modern PUVs are.

“Napaka-komportable daw po sa pagsakay, nakakarating sila ng hindi pinapawisan, hindi naaalikabukan, kasi aircon ‘yung modernized units (They said it’s very comfortable, they reach their destination without sweating, without getting dirty, because modern PUVs are airconditioned),” he said.

CURODA has 59 investors and 50 drivers, with 30 dispatchers and 10 office staff.

Following the deadline for consolidation under the PUVMP on Dec. 31, the LTFRB reported that around 76 percent of PUVs operating in fixed routes nationwide have either consolidated or applied for consolidation.

In the National Capital Region, around 97 percent of confirmed units — PUVs that have valid franchises or other necessary documents — have consolidated. (PNA)