Eco-friendly vehicle to replace jeepneys

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The Board of Investments (BOI) is targeting to have ready before the end of the year the concept vehicle for the CARS-like manufacturing program for eco-friendly public utility vehicles (PUVs), playing a key role in supplying new transport units under the government’s PUV modernization scheme, a top official said.

Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon M. Lopez, who is also BOI chair, said that deliberations were currently being made on the design of the main vehicle for the PUV manufacturing program, describing it as a “modern solution and a modern design for PUVs that are more efficient and safer.”

This is part of a bigger initiative under the PUV Modernization Program, a scheme headed by the Deparment of Transporation (DOTr) that aims to replace more than 200,000 jeepneys across the country. The program was launched yesterday.

At the same time, the ban on the issuance of new franchises for public utility vehicles has also been effectively lifted by the DOTr after it signed yesterday the omnibus franchising guidelines (OFG) that would set in motion the three-year rollout of the agency’s modernization program.

However, new franchises can only be released to transport operators once the local governments have submitted to the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) their respective local transport route plan. The OFG was signed by Transport Secretary Arthur Tugade and Interior officer in charge Catalino Cuy in a ceremony yesterday at Camp Aguinaldo.

Under the OFG, which lifts the 14-year moratorium on public utility franchises, applicants would be required to have vehicles that are at least Euro-4 compliant, accessible to both senior citizens and persons with disability and are equipped with safety and convenience features such as CCTV cameras, GPS, automatic fare collection system, Wi-Fi, speed limiters and dashboard cameras.

Martin Delgra III, the chair of the LTFRB, said that they would be working closely with local governments for the route plans to ensure that these would be based on current and projected travel patterns and would take into consideration intermodality and interconnection.

According to DOTr, the modern PUVs will replace transport units that have been operating for 15 years or more. Among its features, the modernization program will also treat jeepney drivers as employees, providing them regular salaries and benefits instead of the status quo wherein drivers compete over passengers because of the prevailing boundary system.

“Before the end of the year, we should have something. We should have a design, a concept of the program [vehicle] and how it would look like. The target is before the end of the year,” Lopez told the Inquirer in a phone interview.

For now, only a general overview of the manufacturing scheme has been provided, with BOI Managing Head Ceferino Rodolfo previously saying that it would involve Filipino firms that would be selected to locally produce the standardized vehicle units although some components might have to be imported.

Officials often compared this to the Comprehensive Automotive Resurgence Strategy (CARS) Program, a P27-billion government initiative that would pick three car manufacturers to locally produce a combined 600,000 units within a six-year period.

Since opening applications more than a year ago, the CARS program has so far qualified only two carmakers—Toyota Motors Philippines and Mitsubishi Motors Philippines—the two best-selling carmakers in the country.

Lopez said that the P9-billion budget for the unused third slot might be used for the manufacturing scheme of eco-friendly PUVs.

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