MANILA, Philippines – Senate committee on public services chairperson Grace Poe said she wants Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade to attend a hearing set for Monday, December 11, to explain "unrealistic" government plans to implement next year the modernization of public utility vehicles (PUVs).
"Ang talagang hiniling sa atin ng mga jeepney operators ay sana nandoon nga si Secretary Tugade kasi dapat marinig natin mismo sa kanya: Ano ba ang maitutulong ng gobyerno at paano ba itong programa ng PUV modernization?" Poe said in an interview with radio station dzBB on Sunday, December 10.
(The jeepney operators want to hear from Secretary Tugade. What assistance will the government provide and how will the PUV modernization program really work?)
Poe's own calculation shows operators would lose in the government's bid to modernize the country's jeepney fleet. The senator said that the P80,000 assistance allocated to subsidize the modernization of each jeepney unit would not be enough because the modern jeepneys cost P1.6 million each.
Based on her calculation, she said each unit would actually cost P2.1 million at 6% interest rate per annum if the payment period is 7 years. (READ: Is the PUV modernization program 'anti-poor?')
"Kailangan kumita sila ng malaki dahil sa isang araw P800 ng kanilang kikitain ay mapupunta lamang sa pagbayad dito, so natural kung ikaw ay jeepney driver, mamomroblema ka kasi puhunan mo pa lang, 'di ba? Kasi babayaran mo 'yung gasolina. Babayaran mo 'yung maintenance. Papaano na ngayon kung P800 ay mapupunta lamang sa bayad?" said Poe.
(They will need to earn more. They get P800 a day and all of it would just go to payments. Naturally, if you're a jeepney driver, that would be a problem. You still need to pay for gas and for maintenance. What happens if your daily earnings go to payments?)
Poe added that the government budget of P2 billion for the modernization program also means it can only fund the modernization of 25,000 jeepneys, which is only a small percentage of the total 234,000 jeepneys operating nationwide.
The senator said the government program should be realistic. She recommended doing it in phases, for example.
"Siguro kailangan magpakatotohanan. Unang-una, maybe we should do it in highly urbanized cities muna, in phases. Sabihin natin, Manila muna. Parang hindi naman yata natin puwedeng gawing masyadong ambisyoso muna itong plano," Poe said.
(I think we need to be realistic. Firstly, maybe we should do it in highly urbanized cities first, in phases. Let's say, Manila first. I don't think we can be overly ambitious with the plan.)
While Tugade has been holding meetings with transport groups, Poe said it is important that commitments are fleshed out in a public hearing so jeepney operators nationwide may also hear the explanations.
Poe said she is willing to referee talks between the government and the already agitated groups of jeepney operators like the Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (Piston).
"Huwag lang personal, 'di ba (As long as the arguments are not personal, right)? Stick to the facts," said Poe.
Piston leader George San Mateo was recently arrested for leading a transport strike back in February, an alleged violation of the Public Service Act. He posted bail.
"Ayaw naman natin na maantala pa at ang ating mga kababayan ay mahirapan lalung-lalo na't magpa-Pasko. Pag-uusapin natin sila para wala na muna ang mga strike na 'yun," Poe said.
(We don't want the people to suffer from another transport strike especially during the holidays. We want both sides to talk.)
Piston had canceled the transport strike it scheduled for December 4 to 5 after Poe made an appeal saying that their concerns would be discussed.