The Department of Transportation (DoTr) put its foot down yesterday on protesters which announced a nationwide strike today, saying it will not stop pursuing the Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP) that would replace antiquated jeepneys that hamper travel on streets.
“Past administrations wanted to modernize transportation but every time people wave flags saying that the program is anti-poor, they take a step back. This has to stop,” DoTr Secretary Arthur Tugade said yesterday.
In a statement, Tugade said: “Remember we are not fighting the few. We are protecting the many.”
The official said, “Modernization should be implemented now.”
“We will not stop anyone from expressing their right. But you need to make sure that you do not step on other people’s rights. You have to consider the common good. Break that and I will fight you,” he added.
The DoTr has warned jeepney drivers who would join today’s transport strike that they could face penalties, including the cancellation of their franchises.
The agency explained that the franchise for a public transportation is a “privilege granted by government.”
“The strike is a blatant disregard to their duty as an operator. They have responsibilities to their passengers,” Assistant Communications Secretary Goddes Libiran noted.
Among the transport groups joining the protest are Alliance of Concerned Transport Organization (ACTO) and PISTON.
In 2017, the DoTr launched the Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP) as a flagship project of the Duterte administration, which aims to achieve a “restructured, modern, well-managed and environmentally sustainable transport sector.”
The government claimed that this will provide drivers and operators stable, sufficient and dignified livelihoods, while commuters get to their destinations quickly, safely and comfortably.
The PUVMP also seeks to phase out jeepneys aged 15 years and above and replace these with vehicles that use renewable energy and use Euro 4-compliant fuel.
To achieve this, the government is offering a special loan program for jeepney drivers and operators with Landbank and Development Bank of the Philippines.
Transport groups said they are staging the strike to oppose the PUVMP, calling the administration’s step as anti-poor, as jeepney owners will have to replace their vehicles with units that will cost them at least P2 million to acquire.