By Beatriz Marie D. Cruz, Reporter

THE DEPARTMENT of Transportation (DoTr) said it would implement its modernization program for public utility vehicles (PUV) despite receiving zero funding for next year, Transportation Secretary Jaime J. Bautista told congressmen on Monday.

“We requested from the DBM (Department of Budget and Management) a budget of P1.8 billion. Unfortunately, we were not given any budget in the NEP (National Expenditure Program), but we will continue the modernization program,” Mr. Bautista told a House appropriations committee budget hearing.

Since the PUV modernization program was also left out of the Department of Transportation’s (DoTr) 2023 budget, he said they would just move for the consolidation of the PUV industry.

A Dec. 31 deadline has been set for single operators and drivers to be brought together as one legal entity to help facilitate the transition to modern transport units. Mr. Bautista said they would stick to it.

Earlier, he said traditional jeepneys could keep operating if these were properly maintained.

“We really encourage them to avail [themselves of] new units but if they really can’t, we’d just see to it that their equipment are roadworthy,” he told reporters in April.

The PUV sector conducted a transport strike in March to protest the looming phase out of traditional jeepneys.

Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) Chairman Teofilo E. Guadiz III told lawmakers no PUV franchise was canceled as requested by the DoTr secretary after the strike.

Party-list Rep. Raoul Danniel A. Manuel said PUV drivers and operators have the right to protest against the modernization program.

“We should not threaten [canceling their franchise] because that is part of their rights especially if they think that this modernization program will leave them disadvantaged,” Mr. Manuel told the committee.

The DoTr is seeking a P214.3-billion budget for next year, 76.5% higher than this year’s allocation and the fifth-biggest budget among departments.