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Senators propose tweaks to transport modernization program


LAWMAKERS HAVE put forward proposed adjustments in the government’s public utility vehicles (PUV) modernization program, mainly in consideration of jeepney drivers who will be affected by the transition to more environment-friendly transport.

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph G. Recto on Monday proposed to the Department of Transportation (DoTr) to make the vehicle upgrade voluntary, instead of mandatory, for drivers.

Senator Paolo Benigno A. Aquino IV, meanwhile, filed a bill providing a five-year transition plan for the modernization program.

During the Senate hearing on the DoTr’s modernization program, Mr. Recto questioned the agency’s efforts to push jeepney drivers to upgrade their vehicles.

He said the existing type of jeepneys should just be allowed to operate and compete with the new ones.

“Let the market forces determine, instead of making it mandatory. Matira matibay ang mangyayari d’yan (The best will prevail). We didn’t create Uber and Grab, right? They just entered and the market determined that they’re willing to pay higher prices if needed. Why can’t we do that in our jeepneys also?” Mr. Recto said.

“That is the problem of the government’s thinking, everything is mandatory. Standards and certain regulations are allowed. You implement simultaneously when the timing is wrong. The inflation rate is high, the fuel prices are high, the prices are not adjusted, then you will introduce something new again… So why not do it market oriented?” he added.

The DoTr plans to replace all public utility jeepneys that are at least 15 years old.

The government is offering an P80,000 subsidy per new vehicle, which is estimated to cost between P1.5 million to P1.8 million.

Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) Martin B. Delgra III admitted that there have been challenges in the implementation of the PUV modernization program, especially on achieving the agency’s three-year target period.

He said the LTFRB aims to monitor within that three-year transition period if commuters would prefer the old jeepneys or the new vehicles.

LTFRB Board Member Aileen Lourdes A. Lizada, for her part, called for the completion of the public transport route rationalization plan.

Mr. Aquino’s Senate Bill No. 2056, the Makatarungang Transisyon Tungo sa Modernisasyon, mandates the DoTr to provide guidelines in the phased transition from the current PUVs to standards-compliant vehicles.

The proposed measure also provides for a government subsidy not lower than 20% of the vehicle’s unit price for driver and operators.

“What we’re looking at here is the common ground so that we can reach our goal of having clean air in the country but at the same time no Filipino will lose jobs or livelihood,” Mr. Aquino told reporters after he filed the bill. — Camille A. Aguinaldo

De Castro on short Supreme Court leadership: ‘I tried my best’

WITH JUST over a month serving as the Supreme Court’s (SC) top magistrate, retiring Chief Justice Teresita Leonardo-De Castro said she tried her best to bring reforms during her short stint.

“I tried my best so that my presence will be most felt not only by the employees of the court but also of our judges and justices nationwide. I hope you have felt it,” she said in a speech in her last flag raising ceremony at the SC on Oct. 8.

Ms. De Castro is stepping down on Oct. 10 when she reaches 70, the mandatory retirement age.

She noted the administrative reforms she instituted in the judiciary, which she said is “among the most over burdened offices in the national government.”

She cited the salary upgrade of the first-level court, the granting of overtime pay to stenographers and court employees who help in trial cases, the opening of positions of assistant chiefs of courts, and the immediate promotion of officials when there are vacant positions.

“We have also opened up the positions of assistant chiefs of office, numerous positions which remained unfilled up for many years in order not to disrupt the delivery of public service when a chief of office is promoted or retires,” she said.

Ms. De Castro also announced that SC employees will receive a token of appreciation for their “hard work” and “dedicated service to the court.”

“Remember it comes not only from me but from all the justices of the court who have been very supportive in seeing to it that your welfare and well-being are served. I will miss all of you,” she said.

“With this, I say goodbye to all of you, you have given me much memories to live by the rest of my life. Thank you,” she added

Ms. De Castro served in the SC for over a decade since her appointment as associate justice on Dec. 4, 2007. She was appointed as chief justice on Aug. 25, 2018, following the ouster of Maria Lourdes P.A. Sereno through quo warranto. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

BI denies Sr. Fox’s appeal to extend missionary visa

THE BUREAU of Immigration (BI) on Monday denied “with finality” the appeal of Australian missionary Patricia Anne Fox for the extension of her missionary visa.

In a statement, the BI said that the nun’s motion for reconsideration was denied as it is “merely a reiteration or rehash of arguments already submitted, and found to be without merit,” and that Ms. Fox “failed to raise any new and substantial arguments.”

“Our Board of Commissioners saw that there is no valid reason to reverse the September 13 Denial Order. She presented no new arguments in her motion for reconsideration,” BI Spokesperson Dana Krizia Sandoval is quoted in the statement.

Ms. Fox’s missionary visa expired last Sept. 5.

The BI denied the application for her visa extension, citing that an approval “will be inconsistent with the findings cited in the deportation order against her.”

Ms. Sandoval also said that the missionary nun is required to apply for the downgrading of her visa as a visitor.

“Downgrading is the process that will revert her status to a temporary visitor’s visa, and she will be given 59 days starting from the date of the expiry of her visa,” she said.

“Non-compliance of the order may result in another deportation case against her.”

Meanwhile, Ms. Fox filed a pending petition for review last Sept. 3 before the Department of Justice (DoJ) on her deportation case.

Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra said the BI has submitted its comment on the issue and “the matter is now submitted for the DoJ’s consideration.”

In a statement, Ms. Fox’s legal counsels said it is not surprising that the BI maintained its decision against the visa extension application.

“Clearly, the BI wants her out of the country, discontinue her missionary work for the poor Filipinos, and silence her unwavering call for justice, accountability and protection of human rights, without even laying the basis for such decision,” they said.

“This Order also reflects the policy of the Duterte Administration against persons critical of its human rights records and anti-people programs,” they added.

Ms. Fox’s legal counsels said they will file her reply to the comment of the BI on Oct. 15 to “settle the substantive issues raised” in the petition, including the “right of foreigners to their exercise of freedom of expression and assembly, universally recognized by both domestic and international laws, which the BI refused to squarely address.”

“Sr. Pat maintains her position that her standing in solidarity with the poor and oppressed in the Philippines, for almost three decades now, is an essential element of her mission as a Church worker and more importantly, a valid exercise of her right to freedom of expression and assembly,” the lawyers said.

Ms. Sandoval said the bureau will have to wait for the DoJ decision before acting on the deportation order but may grant a temporary visitor’s visa “without prejudice to the resolution of her appeal.” — Vann Marlo M. Villegas