By Patrizia Paola C. Marcelo

THE Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) said it prefers to wait for the jeepney modernization program to gain traction before approving fare increases.
Chairman Martin B. Delgra III said that the board will be “more receptive” to fare hike applications if more public utility vehicle (PUV) operators modernize their fleets, because they can then point to service upgrades that are visible to commuters.
“It would benefit all if they embark on the (modernization program), because it would lower their costs… The board would be more receptive if they ask for a fare hike if there is added value to the services, such as predictable times, dependable fleets… I’d like to think the public would be more receptive if they see those changes in the rides. (A fare increase) won’t be too heavy for them to bear if there is a significant change in public transportation,” Mr. Delgra told reporters.
Jeepney modernization in Metro Manila is expected to start in May with 60 modern units set for rollout, after a pilot program in December involving 45 modernized units in Tacloban City.
Board member Aileen Lourdes A Lizada said that the Metro Manila rollout will be led by transport group Pasang Masda in Metro Manila.
“By May, there will be 60 PUJs under Pasang Masda,” Ms. Lizada said in a message.
Mr. Delgra said the LTFRB is currently dealing with various fare hike applications.
“There are pending petitions for fare hikes from provincial and city bus operators, TNVS [transport network vehicle services], jeepneys,” Mr. Delgra said at the Public Transport Modernization Expo mounted by the Department of Transportation (DoTr).
He added that the public would understand higher fares for air-conditioned vehicles, which will likely involve a different fare matrix from jeepneys.
Mr. Delgra, however, added that there are no definite estimates yet for the future fare increases.
DoTr Undersecretary for Road Transportation and Infrastructure Thomas M. Orbos said that while modern PUVs may be more expensive than the current ones, the modern PUVs offer greater capacity, helping operators recoup their investment faster.
The DoTr is set to complete a route rationalization plan, which will identify new routes and consolidate and link existing jeepney routes, as part of the modernization program.
Mr. Delgra said one new route serves the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) and the Mall of Asia (MOA), which was pilot-tested during the expo using modern PUV prototypes.
The modernization program has been opposed by certain transport groups, including PISTON (Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide) which has called strikes, claiming that the program will kill off small operators.
A number of other groups, however, are on board with the program.
The Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) is set to provide P1.5 billion worth of financing for the initial phase of the program.
Various prototypes were on display during the expo, including low-floor Public Utility Buses (PUBs), PUVs, and e-tricycles. Features of modern PUVs and PUBs include air-conditioning, Wi-Fi connections, and side entrances.