Statement of the Commission on Human Rights on the Public Utility Vehicle (PUV) Modernisation Program

Statement of the Commission on Human Rights on the Public Utility Vehicle (PUV) Modernisation Program

Since its launch in 2017, the Public Utility Vehicle Modernisation Program (PUVMP) has sparked widespread discussion among various sectors of society. Objectively, the PUVMP aims to replace traditional jeepneys with “safer, more efficient, and eco-friendly” public vehicles. This transition necessitates the replacement of traditional jeepneys with modern ones, raising economic and financial woes for the transport sector.

Concerning the need to emphasise more sustainable and efficient energy use, the Commission respects the government’s prerogative to make our PUVs more safe and environmentally friendly on the road. We recognise the importance of transitioning to a more sustainable and safer mode of transportation as it encompasses the very essence of the right to freedom of movement.

On the other hand, the Commission believes that genuine progress is inclusive and leaves no one behind. Given the economic and financial implications of PUVMP, the majority of the program’s financial burden will fall on drivers and operators. It is worth noting that the vast majority of PUV operators are from the vulnerable sector. Adhering strictly to rigid consolidation deadlines may jeopardize PUV operators’ right to a sustainable livelihood.

According to a report, the most serious concern is job loss as a result of the program’s entry barriers. These include the costs of updating existing vehicles and purchasing new vehicles, as well as the costs of forming and coordinating a cooperative or corporation. The government set a ceiling of P80,000 in subsidies per unit despite the updated jeepneys costing upwards of P1 million does not alleviate fears that the program will simply push poorer operators out, allowing well-financed corporations to take over [1].

Furthermore, the repercussions of this program extend to commuters, resulting in unintended consequences such as strikes, tigil pasada, and protests, among others. The suspension of franchise issuances for traditional jeepneys has led to challenges in maintaining a sufficient supply and reliability of public transportation services that led to disruptions in the daily commute for the general public.

The Commission remains committed to its mandate to stand against all forms of actions that impede the fundamental rights of everyone. Article XIII, Section 3 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution states that the “State shall guarantee the rights of all workers to self- organization, collective bargaining and negotiations, and peaceful concerted activities, including the right to strike in accordance with law.”

Moreover, the International Labor Organization Convention 87 (ILOC 87) states that “workers and employers, without distinction whatsoever, shall have the right to establish and, subject only to the rules of the organization concerned, to join organizations of their own choosing without prior authorization.” Needless to say, participating in a cooperative should be a voluntary decision.

While we believe that modernisation and development are legitimate government goals, they must be pursued without violating fundamental human rights. In the context of PUVMP, it is necessary to avoid actions that may impose an undue burden on the public. This includes avoiding financial difficulties for small transportation operators and protecting the livelihoods of the numerous drivers involved. The potential consequences, such as pushing these drivers and their families into poverty, highlight the need for a balanced and considerate approach in implementing modernisation efforts to ensure they align with wider societal welfare.

In line with this, the Commission calls on the government, particularly the relevant agencies, to take appropriate steps to address the issue of potential income loss among affected operators. Furthermore, it is the State’s responsibility to efficiently subsidised the program, develop an effective communication strategy for the general public, and make the implementing rules and regulations of PUVMP more understandable.

We are one with the government, the transportation sector, and other relevant stakeholders to create a society that promotes sustainable and inclusive public transportation for everyone. Simultaneously, we are committed to protecting everyone’s rights and championing policies based on the principles of fairness, inclusivity, and social justice. Together, we shall build a nation that values development while respecting the diverse rights and interests of all members of society.

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[1] To make the PUVMP work for the poor, the government needs to spend. https://www.rappler.com/voices/thought-leaders/opinion-make-puv-modernization-program-work-poor-government-needs-spend/