Press Release
December 11, 2017

Transcript of Sen. Grace Poe's Opening Statement
Public Services Hearing on PUV Modernization

Magandang umaga po sa inyong lahat. Tuloy po kayo sa Senado.

This hearing of the Committee on Public Services is now called to order.

I know that many of you have come here today raring to argue your case passionately. But this hearing is not in aid of publicity, but in search for the solutions we all need.

By calling this hearing, we are trying to bring the issue from the streets to the negotiating table. Many of you have tried to thresh this out in several forums, and apparently everyone is sticking to his guns.

The result is the policy-equivalent of a classic traffic gridlock, like cars entangled in an intersection because no one would budge.

I may be wrong in my observation. But believe me, that is how the public perceives the situation to be.

Wala kasing gustong magbigayan. Kaya as we go along, expect me to prod many of you to move a little, give a little, so we can unknot this mess.

Before I proceed, let me thank our jeepney drivers and operators for heeding, not my request, but the people's, to call off their two-day strike.

Mapa-tsuper man o mananakay, walang may gusto ng tigil-pasada, kahit pa ang gobyerno. Thus, I would also like to thank the DOTR, led by Secretary Tugade, for coming here today.

To the drivers and government representatives, if there is one important commodity you can bring to the table in this hearing, it is openness to new ideas and the willingness to compromise.

One in five Filipinos ride a jeep going to work, to school, or to the market everyday.

There are around 230,000 public jeepneys on the road--ten times the number of buses, five times the number of taxis, 40 times more than the minibuses, and bigger than Grab's and Uber's fleets combined.

At a conservative 100 passengers per jeep a day, total ridership could reach 20 million, 40 times than the tirik-prone, tigil-susceptible MRT.

It is because of this huge ridership that one cannot mass-consign the jeeps to the junkshop without causing massive public discomfort.

The urban car-driving class may scoff at these "ancient, unsightly" vehicles, which have long ceased to be kings of the road, but the fact is, and this not fake news, jeepneys remain not only the main ride--but the only ride--in most parts of the country.

And precisely because it is the only ride in most parts of the country, the status quo becomes unacceptable. It is therefore imperative that the government fulfill its mandate in making sure that these rides are safe, convenient, and environment-friendly.

We must admit that our jeeps, a World War 2 relic, are ripe for an upgrade, and there is a broad technological toolkit which can be tapped to achieve this.

The jeepney was never meant to be fossilized. We need the same ingenuity that, we, Filipinos, used to repurpose this US surplus into a motorized "auto calesa" to embrace changes on the jeep.

But being indispensable does not make the jeep immune from improvements. The challenge is how to transition in a manner that is acceptable, affordable, and appropriate. It is not a question of if, but when and how.

When the PUV Modernization program was launched, the program, according to the official press release, said it is "designed to make public utility vehicles safer, more convenient, more comfortable, and environment-friendly."

This program would supposedly go hand in hand with, the issuance of the Omnibus Franchising Guidelines (OFG)

The PUV Modernization program is directly tied to issuance of 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. Is this still correct? We expect to hear more from the DOTr on this later.

It is public knowledge that air pollution poses a danger to the health of commuters gravely affecting our respiratory and cardiovascular systems. It is also a common experience to be at the receiving end of smoke-belching jeepneys.

Kaya sino ba ang hindi matutuwa na kailangan nang maging environmentally friendly ang mga jeep? Pero ang tanong, sapat ba o meron man lang ba tayong vehicle inspection units para siguraduhin na papasa ang mga jeep sa internationally accepted emission standards?

Dagdag pa rito, gusto nating malaman kung ano ang tungkulin ng mga local na pamahalaan sa pagpapatupad ng PUV Modernization program.

It has been argued that the LGUs are in a better position to identify local public transport service requirements because of familiarity with their constituency and territory. Their local commuters will also be the first to be heavily affected with any jeepney replacement program. Therefore, it is only fair that the local governments have a role in this situation. Were the LGUs able to submit their route plans to the DOTr already?

Lahat naman ng tsuper gusto ng pagbabago. Sino ba naman ang tatanggi sa isang jeep na magaan imaneho at komportable sa pasahero? Sino ba naman ang tatalikod sa isang modelo na may power-steering, matipid ang konsumo, at hindi bumubuga ng usok na akala mo ay nag-fu-fumigate ng lamok?

Sabi nga ng jeepney driver na kausap ko: "Eh kung smartphone na po gamit namin, bakit naman aayaw kami sa isang sasakyan na masarap imaneho?"

Naalala ko sabi ng tatay ko hindi mo kayang magmaneho kung hindi mo kayang imaneho ang jeep.

Tama naman po, pero kailangan din nating itanong--sino ba ang magiging supplier ng mga jeep? Iyung matagal na nating pinagkakatiwalaan na local jeepney manufacturers ba ang gagawa ng mga bagong sasakyan? Ano ang basehan ng bagong modelo o design?

Higit sa lahat, kailangan din nating malaman: Kaya ba ng bulsa--hindi lang ng mga drayber/operator kung 'di pati na rin ng mga mananakay? Kung ang isang bagong jeep ay nagkakahalagang 1.5 hanggang 1.8 milyong piso, hindi maiiwasan na tataas rin ang pamasahe.

Come to think of it, if government is subsidizing trains run by rich companies to the tune of billions, then why should it allow jeepney drivers and operators to foot the bill for new units almost all by themselves?

If PPP grantees are given incentives, in amounts with dizzying number of zeros, and are hailed as patriots, then why are jeepney drivers who are asking for a little more help treated as pests? Kaya ba ng ating mga jeepney drayber at operator na bayaran sa loob ng itinakdang panahon ang utang para sa bagong mga jeep? May kasiguraduhan ba na papautangin sila ng bangko?

So these are the divergent interests we would like to reconcile today. Tulad sa isang jeep, gusto nating makakita ng isang malinaw na ruta.

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