RUNNING OUT OF HOPE?: Ilonggo drivers hoping for traditional jeep franchise extension

Drivers are pinning their hopes on the announcement that the franchise of old or traditional jeepneys will be extended beyond March 31, 2023. (F.A. Angelo photo)

By John Noel E. Herrera

Jeepney drivers and operators in Iloilo are waiting for an extension of the franchise for traditional jeepneys which is about to expire on March 31, 2023, following the announcement of the Land Transportation and Franchising Regulatory Board (LTFRB) central office.

LTFRB earlier announced that it will extend the franchise validity of traditional jeepneys, citing that it would give operators and drivers more time to form cooperatives for the government’s public utility vehicle (PUV) modernization program.

LTFRB Chairperson Teofilo Guadiz III also said that the board took into consideration the possibility of a transportation shortage if they implement the deadline, but he also said that the planned extension was not definite as they are still deliberating and finalizing the guidelines.

LTFRB-6 Legal Counsel Atty. Jun Altura said in a phone interview that they are still waiting for the new Memorandum Circular (MC) from the central office regarding the extension.

“Based man sa statement, may ara man (franchise) extension nga i-grant pero asta subong wala pa na kapanaog ang MC, so it is premature to discuss kung ano content sina kag sin-o ang mabenipisyuhan, ang kalawidon, kag ano ang mga parameter to avail the extension,” Altura said.

Meanwhile, one driver said that he was hoping for the extension as driving a jeepney is the only source of living he has to sustain the needs of his five children who are all studying.

“Ti tani i-extend lang nila, kay amu lang man ni amun pangabuhi-an tapos may gina-paeskwela pa nga lima. Ma end na sa 31 (March), tani madayon ang extend kay kung hindi, ti mauntat naman kami byahe, wala na pangitan-an,” Relio Estebañez said.

Another driver said that they have been struggling with the rising prices of fuel and the franchise expiration will be another burden for them.

Some drivers and jeepneys, particularly those with registration plates ending in numeral 1, have stopped plying their routes in January.

“Sang ligad gina-problema namon kung paano mapadako ang kita kay kataas sang gatong, subong ang panumdumon na gid namon kun may mapangitan-an pa kami. Pero tani ti tuod to gid man ang gin-announce nga extension kay damo naman di gani sa amon nag-untat na, ang mga uno bala ila plate number,” Roger Gecano said.

There were also some drivers who were already forced to stop working as their franchise was not renewed by the Land Transportation Office (LTO).

“So far, damo gid ya nag-untat (byahe), ang naga-continue na lang gid byahe sa amon subong amu ang 46 units. Amu lang ni epektibo pa nga byahe kag sobra 70 units ang wala na naga-byahe,” ICAJODA PTC Vice Chairman Leody Lara said.

Altura, on the other hand, explained that LTFRB-6 still follows the existing MC-2022-033, which states that the traditional jeepney franchise would expire on March 31, and they could not just overstep the LTO policy for the renewal of registration.

“Ang existing MC namon nga gina-implementar is MC-2022-033 nga nagahambal nga tanan nga traditional jeepneys, ang ila franchise, provisional authority (PA) or special permit, will expire on March 31, 2023. May ara na subong nga traditional jeeps nga ang ila rehistro is up for renewal, galing sa existing policy naman sang LTO, (those with) PA or special permit shorter than six months, hindi sila ma-renew, amu na hindi sila ma renew sang LTO,” Altura explained.

Altura also acknowledged that there would be a shortage of PUVs in Iloilo following the phase-out of some traditional jeepneys, especially in the province, where some towns still do not have modernized jeepneys operating.

He also explained that there were delays in acquiring modernized jeepneys as some lending banks have yet to approve the loans of some cooperatives because of a lack of requirements and support for the application.

“Galing gina require before sang mga lending bank, ang may LPTRP lang nga approved. Dira gina-determine kung pila lang ang autorized units sang modernized jeepneys ang pwede maka-byahe and ang mga bangko wala man gadali-dali approve sang loan applications unless provided kung pila ang final number nga ara sa LPTRP,” Altura added.

He also acknowledged that there were some traditional jeepneys that are operating despite having an expired franchise and registration, but noted that they also need to balance the demands of public transportation service and could not be selective in apprehending violators.

“Damo naga-padlagan nga hindi complete ang ila papers, either expired ang franchise ang rehistro, galing wala lang kami ga operate to apprehend these units kay una, we are trying to balance man sang demand, kay kung mag-operation kami, we cannot be selective. Dako lang ni galing nga risgo gid on the part sang mga pasahero kay kung ano matabo da, wala sang insurance, at the same time risgo man sang drivers,” he said.