LTFRB: Jeepney modernization still a go amid budget issues

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 29) — Despite a senator's criticism on the fund allocation and implementation of its programs, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) maintained the jeepney modernization program is still a go.

In a media briefing Wednesday, LTFRB Chairperson Martin Delgra III said the planned public utility vehicle (PUV) modernization will push through amid claims that the budget allocated for the program will be at the expense of drivers and operators.

"What I would like to say is itutuloy natin itong modernization program na ito. Matagal na po nating inaasam-asam, matagal na po nating hinihintay ito," Delgra told reporters.

[Translation: What I would like to say is that we will continue with this modernization program. We have yearned and waited long for this.]

Senator Grace Poe on Monday said the Department of Transportation (DOTr) may experience a roadblock in its budget passage if transport officials fail to address issues regarding the program.

READ: Rough road ahead for DOTr budget as Poe questions jeepney modernization program

She questioned how ordinary drivers and operators can afford the modern jeeps, which are estimated from P1.2 million to P1.8 million per unit, if they are to receive P80,000 subsidy.

But Delgra shrugged off the concern, saying it's still up to the Congress to finalize and approve the budget for the modernization program.

"In so far as what Senator Poe had said, we welcome that very much, and we welcome the support of Congress," Delgra replied. "So (we'll give) whatever help we can give to them, (in order to) succeed in fully implementing this modernization program na matagal na nating iniintay (we have long waited for).

The jeepney modernization program aims to phase out vehicles that are 15 years old and above  by 2020. By then, authorities will only issue franchises to operators with jeeps that have environment-friendly engines, as well as security features.

Transport groups and netizens alike have called out the modernization program, labeling it as "anti-poor."

Only subsidy

Delgra said he is not aware of transport groups' claims that they have not received fuel vouchers under the Transportation Department's Pantawid Pasada program. However, he mentioned that only "legitimate PUJ franchise holders" are included in the list of recipients.

The Pantawid Pasada program aims to relieve the public transport sector by providing fuel subsidies for PUV stakeholders. LTFRB said it has started distribution of the fuel cards to nine regions Tuesday.

Delgra noted that once the department's 2019 budget is approved, a subsidy worth P20,514 per unit will be given out to drivers or operators. This equates to a P56 fuel budget per day.

The LTFRB chairperson, meanwhile, emphasized the program is not meant to shoulder all expenses.

"Ganun talaga ang (That really is the) idea. It's just really a fuel subsidy," Delgra said.