Transport group PISTON urged the government on Monday to include the 31.57 billion peso ($630 million) PUV rehabilitation subsidy in the 2024 national budget.
The subsidy, proposed by Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Arlene Brosas, would be used for the centralized procurement of Euro-5 engines to upgrade about 63,140 traditional PUVs each year for three years, covering all 189,420 traditional PUVs.
“If this is passed, there is no reason for the government to push for the mandatory franchise consolidation because the budget for the direct rehabilitation of traditional PUVs will be provided,” PISTON National President Mody Floranda said.
The group also said that if the government is serious about providing “cleaner” public transport, the bicameral conference committee has no reason to reject this proposal. Once passed, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) have no reason to make franchise consolidation mandatory since government subsidies must be inclusive for all legitimate franchise holders, regardless of consolidation status.
“The government of Marcos Jr. should prove now that their main objective in the PUV Modernization Program is to make public transport vehicles cleaner. The government should urgently pass this budget. Otherwise, they will only expose the true face of the PUVMP, which is for business and not service,” Floranda added.
PISTON also demands that billions of public funds from the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) and the Confidential and Intelligence Funds (CIF) from the Office of the President and other agencies be reallocated to the PUV rehabilitation subsidy.
“If the Philippine government is serious about reopening the peace talks with the CPP-NPA-NDF, there is no reason to allocate billions of funds for counter-insurgency. They should use it instead for direct support to the people,” Floranda said.
PISTON also maintained that even without the peace talks, most of the national budget should always be allocated for socio-economic programs.
“This budget is only a first step towards a pro-people just transition in public transport. It is a challenge for the government to prove that the PUVMP they want to implement is for the welfare of the people and not for the corporate capture and monopolization of franchises and PUV routes of the small operators by big businesses,” Floranda added.