TRANSPORT groups asked the Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday for a speedy issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the modernization program as the grace period of 15 days for its full implementation ends Wednesday, May 15.

The Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (PISTON) and Manibela called on the High Court to “immediately block” the public utility vehicle modernization program (PUVMP).

On May 16, Thursday, authorities under the Department of Transportation (DoTr) and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) would start impounding unconsolidated public utility jeepneys.

“We have long been waiting for the TRO to be issued, so that we can return to our livelihood,” said Manibela president Mario “Mar” S. Valbuena to reporters in Filipino.

PISTON said imposing “arbitrary deadlines” on public transport transition endangers jobs and livelihoods.

“The poorly designed program will lead to higher fares for commuters, worse or no services on less profitable or costlier routes, and further disruptions on transport worker livelihoods as private firms profit-maximize,” think tank IBON Foundation executive director Jose Enrique “Sonny” A. Africa told BusinessWorld in a Viber message.

“We stand by our expectation that minimum fares will be some Php15-25 for the next 3-5 years at most but then head towards Php45-50 or more after this — not immediately but, certainly, in that general direction,” he said.

Ruben G. Baylon, deputy secretary-general of PISTON, in a text message to BusinessWorld, said that about 20,000 unconsolidated entities in the capital region did not join the PUVMP.

He added that over 100,000 jeepneys nationwide are pending in the consolidation process. The LTFRB is still in the process of approving these applications.

“Even if a TRO is approved months or years from now, it will not undo the damage caused by the DoTr and LTFRB’s actions in the coming days,” PISTON said in a statement.

SC Spokesperson Camille Sue Mae L. Ting, in a separate Viber message, said the High Court asked for the DoTr and LTFRB to submit a comment within 10 days from May 14.

The tribunal is specifically seeking comments from the respondents on the status of the consolidation progress, the Local Public Transport Route Plan (LPTRP), the Route Rationalization Plan, and the Status of the hearings before the House of Representatives.

Last April 29, LTFRB Chairman Teofilo E. Guadiz III said consolidated vehicles are identified through their windshield stickers issued by the LTFRB.

However, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) told BusinessWorld that the DoTr has not released any guidelines on the apprehension for unconsolidated vehicles.

Protesting jeepney drivers bewailed the costs of joining a cooperative and not being able to own new imported modern jeepneys, which cost about P2 million per unit. — Chloe Mari A. Hufana