PISTON, transport groups seek TRO vs. Dec. 31 deadline of PUV Modernization Program

The Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide (PISTON) and affiliate groups on Thursday filed an extremely urgent motion asking the Supreme Court to issue a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) on the government’s Public Utility Vehicle (PUV) modernization program as it nears its December 31 deadline for enlistment.

Filing the petition were PISTON chairman Modesto Floranda, Jason Jajilagutan, Bayan Muna party-list coordinator Gaylord Despuez, Para-Advocates For Inclusive Transport member Edric Samonte, No to PUV Phaseout Coalition of Panay member Elmer Forro, and Komyut spokesperson Ma. Flora Cerna.

The group claimed that based on PISTON’s records, at least 15 major routes in Metro Manila have no consolidated units under one transport service entity or cooperative with three days to go before the Dec. 31 deadline.

“Mahalaga na magkaroon ng TRO doon sa deadline [na December 31] sapagkat kapag hindi, magkakaroon tayo ng transport crisis,” PISTON’s Floranda told reporters.

“Ang panawagan natin ay tanggalin ang deadline, payagan tayo na makapag-renew ng prangkisa para patuloy na tayo ay makapag serbisyo sa taumbayan,” Floranda added.

The PUV Modernization Program requires existing franchise holders to consolidate under a transport service entity (TSE) or cooperative, since the franchise will be issued to the said entity, not individual franchise holders.

According to the petitioners, routes with no consolidated PUV units include:

a. Project 2-3 – Pantranco

b. Project 2-3 – Welcome

c. Project 2-3 – Quiapo

d. Project 2-3 – Pier Quezon City

e. Project 2-3 – Remedios

f. Cubao – Vito Cruz (along E. Rodriguez)

g. Cubao – Kalaw

h. Cubao – Remedios

i. Cubao – Pier

j. Tipas – Pateros – Pasig (TPP)

k. Pasig – Tipas diretso (TPD)

l. Marikina – Pasig NDA

m.Rizal – Pasig NDA

n. EDSA – Pasig

o. Bagong Bayan – Pasig000

PISTON also said the following nine routes in Metro Manila and nearby provinces with a low percentage of consolidated PUV units:

a. Alabang-FTI – 20%

b. Alabang-Carmona – 25%

c. Alabang-GMA – 15%

d. Alabang-Biñan – 22%

e. Novaliches-Malinta – 30%

f. Novaliches-Blumentritt – 30%

g. Novaliches-Camarin – 30%

h. Litex-Ever – 40%

i. Almar-Zabarte – 50%

 

“The full implementation of the subject department order and circulars [on PUV modernization program] will affect some 28.5 million commuters  who will bear the burden of a worsened transport crisis.  Especially in Metro Manila… once hailed as the most congested city out of all 278 cities in developing Asia by the  Asian Development Bank in 2019, the commuters can expect a more distressing commuting experience,” the petition said.

“They will have to endure longer lines at PUV stations due to the lack of public transportation,” the petitioners added.

Under the PUV modernization program, which started in 2017, jeepneys will be replaced by vehicles that have at least a Euro 4-compliant engine to lessen pollution and replace PUVs that are no longer roadworthy by the standards of the Land Transportation Office (LTO).

Each unit costs over P2 million, an amount that many PUV drivers and operators too high for them to purchase even thru loans.

“Clear unpreparedness”

The petitioners said that Land Transportation, Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB)’s December 22 Memorandum Circular 2023-052, which provides that unconsolidated individual operators in routes with less than 60% consolidated Number of Authorized Units (NAUs) will be allowed to operate until January 31, 2024, is already an admission on the part of the government that there are not enough PUV units that are ready to take part in the PUV modernization program.

The petitioners also argued that such leeway to operate under January 31, 2024 does not even cover those routes which have 60% and above consolidated units, as provided under MC 2023-052.

“If the government is truly ready to fully implement the PUV modernization program after December 31, 2023 and that it is confident that there will be sufficient PUVs to compensate for the jeepneys whose franchises will be revoked, why then would it allow unconsolidated  individual operators whose provisional authority will be revoked after December 31, 2023 to continue operating until January 31, 2024? This is a clear admission on the part of the LTFRB that it is not ready to fully implement the PUV modernization program and that the transport system in the country will be paralyzed if the PUV modernization program is fully implemented,” the petition read.

“Instead of postponing the deadline for consolidation to address this potential crisis, the LTFRB decided to continue with the implementation of the subject department order and circulars, despite its clear unpreparedness. Verily, this will bring about a grave and irreparable injury that must be swiftly prevented,”the petition added.

The immediate issuance of a TRO, the petitioners claim, will prevent the grave and irreparable injury that the petitioners, the jeepney drivers and operators, their families, the commuters and the public in general will suffer.

Also cited in the petition is the “severe impact” on the income and livelihood of “drivers, operators and their  families, as well as commuters all over the country” should the franchise of thousands of PUV operators be canceled on January 1, 2024.

Bayan Muna chairperson Neri Colmenares, the counsel for the petitioners, said there is no rule barring the SC from issuing a TRO at the last minute before the December 31 deadline.

“Patuloy kaming umaasa because under the rules, even one Supreme Court justice can issue a TRO. There is no prohibition for the SC to issue a TRO on a Saturday or Sunday for that matter although hopefully, tomorrow, a Friday, is the last day of office [for 2023], I hope they can issue a TRO,” Colmenares said.—RF, GMA Integrated News

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