The PUVMP, otherwise known as the Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program, refers to the jeepney modernization program that started out as a debate topic during the Marcos regime (1965–1986). It is a bid to revolutionize and transform traditional jeepneys and other public utility vehicles (PUVs) which resurfaced as a comprehensive reform program under the Duterte administration in 2017. The program was launched as an ambitious initiative to transform the traditional jeepneys and other public utility vehicles, and effectively address existing issues on safety, efficiency, and environmental impact.
The PUVMP is a comprehensive reform in the public land transportation industry. It was launched as a response to the growing challenges faced by the country’s public transportation system. Outdated vehicles, safety concerns, and worsening environmental issues prompted the need for a comprehensive and modernized program concerning the public utility vehicles (PUVs), and with the PUVMP, the Philippine government hopes that drivers and operators will continue to have stable and dignified livelihoods while the commuters enjoy quick, safe, and comfortable journeys.
What is PUVMP?
PUVMP stands for the Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program. It is a comprehensive reform program headed by the Department of Transportation (DOTr) who later invited the Office of Transportation Cooperatives (OTC)—one of the attached agencies of DOTr—as one of its implementing partners. As it concerns PUVs, the program also involves the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) as one of its collaborators for the reform initiative.
The program itself mainly aims to improve the most used road-based public utility vehicle, the jeepney, as it has now evolved into a “problem,” thanks to the aggressive driving behavior of its drivers as they compete for passengers. The PUVMP was designed to ‘overhaul’ the transport system and not phase out the iconic jeepney. It proposes fleet modernization, requiring the replacement of jeepney units aged 15 years or older with those featuring Euro 4 or electric engines, equipped with modern amenities like GPS, automated fare collection systems, and closed-circuit television cameras to make the public commute more efficient and safer. With the PUVMP, the DOTr hopes to improve and consolidate the local public land transport service geared towards a restructured, modern, well-managed, and environmentally sustainable transport sector.
Components of the PUVMP
To carry out such a significant transformation of the public transport sector, the PUVMP takes into consideration ten (10) different components.
- Regulatory reform
- Local public transport route planning by the local government
- Route rationalization study
- Fleet modernisation
- Industry consolidation
- Financing PUV modernisation
- Vehicle useful life program
- Pilot implementation
- Stakeholder support mechanism
With these components, the DOTr introduced the PUVMP—a new regulatory policy where modern public utility vehicles have definite transport routes based on passenger demand and road hierarchy. Vehicles are also consolidated from the current dominance of single ownership towards having a ‘common revenue sharing and fleet management’ through a ‘one-route-one-franchise’ system.
1. Enhanced Safety
The program prioritizes passenger safety by enforcing rigorous safety standards, including the incorporation of features like anti-lock braking systems (ABS) and air-conditioning.
2. Environmental Sustainability
Citing concerns about the climate impact of diesel-run jeepneys on air quality and the increased environmental footprint of the increased demand for mass transit, the PUVMP promotes the use of Euro 4-compliant engines, which contribute to lower emissions and improved air quality. Plus, it will also encourage less use of private vehicles and more reliance on public transport, effectively reducing fuel use and vehicle emissions.
3. Efficiency and Technology Integration
Modernized vehicles are equipped with GPS tracking systems for efficient route management and automated fare collection systems, streamlining the overall transportation experience.
4. Vehicle Upgrades
Under the PUVMP, the traditional jeepneys are converted from ‘traditional’ jeepneys into ‘modern’ ones. The modernized versions feature not only improved safety and technological advancements that are not kakarag-karag (cranky), bulok (rotten), mausok (smoky), maingay (noisy), and delikado (unsafe) mass transport system, but also a more standardized and regulated design.
5. Economic Impact
The program is anticipated to have a positive impact on the economy. By improving public transportation services, the PUVMP aims to attract more passengers, enhance tourism, and contribute to the overall economic development of local communities.
6. Consolidated Transport Service
Under the PUVMP, public land transport service will be consolidated into a bigger, more coordinated fleet with a ‘common revenue sharing and fleet management’ system from the current dominance of single ownership in order to facilitate PUV operators in securing loans for new units, streamline route planning based on passenger demand, implement a fixed salary scheme for drivers, and operate their units in a systematic and predictable manner, according to Memorandum Circular 2023-017 issued by the LTFRB.
This reform, outlined in the Department of Transportation (DOTr) Department Order No. 2017-011, aims to reshape the sector into a modern, well-managed, and environmentally sustainable mode of transportation. It also includes provision for funding, with plans to provide loan programs through the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) and the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP). Under the program, both the LBP and the DBP will offer a Php 160,000 (USD 3200) subsidy per modern vehicle, an increase from the initial Php 80,000 (USD 1575) subsidy. Transport cooperatives, however, must opt for loans with a seven-year repayment period at a 6% interest rate per annum.
Challenges and Controversies
While the PUVMP holds the promise of a more efficient and sustainable transportation system, it has not been without challenges. Some operators and drivers of traditional jeepneys have expressed concerns about the financial burden of upgrading, and debates over cultural preservation have surfaced as the iconic appearance of jeepneys undergoes changes.
Just recently, some transport and commuter rights groups, led by Piston president Mody Floranda, filed a 56-page petition urging the Supreme Court to halt and nullify government orders mandating franchise consolidation by December 31, 2023. This consolidation is part of the Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP), specifically targeting the phaseout of traditional jeepneys. The petition aims to prevent the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) from enforcing this contentious program which they believe to have overly broad provisions that abuse the discretion and violate their constitutional right to freedom of association as well as the voluntary nature of a cooperative under Republic Act (RA) No. 9520 or the Cooperative Code. They also tagged the PUVMP as oppressive, overreaching, and confiscatory.
Video: PUVMP Challenges, Issues, and Updates Webinar
Learn more about PUVMP, particularly the challenges, issues, and updates on this controversial public land transport reform program by watching this recorded video from UP National Center for Transportation Studies.
As the Philippines continues to roll out the PUVMP, the nation stands at the threshold of a modernized and efficient public transportation system. Balancing the need for progress with the preservation of cultural identity remains a crucial aspect of this transformative initiative. However, the challenges remain. While the government sees PUVMP as a step towards a safer and more sustainable future that also reflects the resilience and adaptability of the Filipino transportation landscape, the affected transport and commuter groups are adamant about putting a halt to its implementation, citing aggressive, abusive, and unconstitutional provisions that violate their constitutional rights.
To date, the argument remains, though the other provisions except for the consolidation of franchise mandated under the PUVMP continues to be implemented nationwide.