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PUV modernization spells massive success for transport sector in General Santos City

Robert Cang, general manager of Lagao Drivers Operators Transport Cooperative (LADOTRANSCO) and vice chairperson of the National Federation of Transport Cooperatives, obliged personnel from the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) for a photoshoot to be used for their annual report featuring the cooperative's sustainability management operations as one of its longtime and successful clients. (Photo courtesy of Robert Cang of LADOTRANSCO)

Before the advent of the government’s Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP), 53-year-old Robert Cang, father of six, drove a passenger multicab that plied the streets of General Santos City.

Cang is now the general manager of Lagao Drivers Operators Transport Cooperative (LADOTRANSCO) and vice chairperson of the National Federation of Transport Cooperatives.

“This must be a fate that I had never imagined,” he said, attributing it to PUVMP’s implementation, which he and other jeepney drivers in the city have wholeheartedly embraced since 2018.

With three of his children now professionals, Cang said he is just so grateful for the provisions he has continuously received.

 “I now have an engineer working with NIA, a seaman, and a business administration,” he disclosed on Tuesday in an interview with the Philippine Information Agency’s “Rated PIA” which is aired over dxGS General Santos.

He also pointed out that instead of commuting in PUVs or tricycles, their drivers are now owners of motorcycles, which they use to pick up their modern units at the cooperative office and to go home on a daily basis.

This indicates that they have financially improved and have the capability to pay since they are earning regularly under the management of a cooperative, Cang explained.

According to Cang, the 100 percent consolidation of PUVs into transport cooperatives is a significant milestone in Region 12. He said the consolidation under PUVMP has resulted in 17 cooperatives going about their own operations in the region based on designated routes.

In General Santos City, there are five transport cooperatives successfully operating in the city. 

Lahat yan consolidated na [All of them are consolidated],” he noted.

LADOTRANSCO has a total of 76 modern jeepney units and 44 electric jeeps. Two of the e-jeeps were given by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Cang said that currently, all of their units are operating within Route 10, particularly from Doña Soledad in barangay Labangal to the public market in barangay Lagao, and Route 11, from barangay Calumpang to the Lagao public market of this city.

General Santos City Mayor Lorelie Geronimo Pacquiao (middle) handed over a P7.1 million check to the officers and members of LADOTRANSCO in February 2023. The amount was spent by the cooperative to purchase 71 units of public utility vehicles under the city government's Special Support Fund for the national PUV Modernization Program. (Photo courtesy of the city government of General Santos)

General Santos City leads the way in PUV modernization

Recounting his experience with PUVMP, Cang said, “General Santos City was one of the first to consolidate and implement the Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program in 2018,” citing the city as a pioneering example for modernized urban transportation in the Philippines.

He also said that General Santos had piloted the formulation of an ordinance in support of the consolidation of jeepney drivers and operators, a year after the PUVMP was launched.

“It is also one of the pilot cities in the country to develop a Local Public Transport Route Plan (LPTRP) under the PUVMP as a requirement of the Department of Transportation (DOTR),” he said.

According to him, PUVMP’s initial takeoff in General Santos was “not a walk in the park,” describing the first several months as a “challenge” for every member of the cooperative.

He said that to ease the implementation process, they needed to undergo comprehensive training and seminars to understand the ‘inner workings’ of how a cooperative under the PUVMP will go about its operations.

Cang said the rigorous training has long-term effects, as the learning helped them a lot in meeting and dealing with the daily challenges and issues that come with operating a successful cooperative.

Robert Cang (2nd from left) and other members of LADOTRANSCO attended the meeting with the city government to receive the P7.1 million check for their application of fund assistance under the latter's Special Support Fund for the PUV Modernization Program of the national government. (Photo courtesy of the city government of General Santos)

Positive impact 

Among the various perks, Cang highlighted a fixed salary of P403 per day beginning this month, and the overtime pay remains for services rendered beyond eight hours.

This also marks a withdrawal from the traditional quota or boundary system, easing the pressure on drivers to work extended hours, he said.

Meanwhile, Rodrigo Reyes Jr., a seasoned e-jeepney driver-operator registered with LADOTRANSCO, vouched for the positive impacts of PUVMP that gradually changed their lives.

Kung deperensya ang hisgutan sa una ug sa karon, mas nindot karon kay komportable ta [It is much nicer and more comfortable now, if we talk about the differences between now and before],” Reyes articulated, underscoring the much improved comfort and enhanced commuting experience of people today.

He also noted the security and benefits he receives as a participant in the PUVMP.

Safety na ang atong kaugmaon ba. Syempre naa na tay mga benepisyo, kay kung sa tinuod lang, ang ginakaltas sa amoa sa SSS, mas dako baya ang balik, ang counterpart pag naa ka sa company [Our future is more secure. Of course, we now have benefits, since honestly, what's deducted from us for our contribution to SSS (Social Security System), the return is much bigger when you are in a company],” Reyes pointed out.

Aside from SSS, all the drivers of the cooperative are also registered as members of PhilHealth and PagIBIG; hence, they are entitled to receive benefits from these state agencies.

The environmental benefits of modernized PUVs are also another crucial aspect. Reyes highlighted the eco-friendly nature of e-jeepneys, contributing to a cleaner, more sustainable urban environment.

Murag inig lingkod nato inig sulod nato sa sakyanan murag maaliwalas kaayo atong paglantaw ba [It seems that when we sit down and get inside the vehicle, our view and perspective seem to become clearer],” he expressed.

One of the units of LADOTRANSCO is plying Route 11 from barangay Calumpang to the public market in barangay Lagao. LADOTRANSCO general manager Robert Cang said they are careful not to overstep other cooperatives' designated routes to avoid any problems or issues. (Photo: PIA SarGen)

Myths and misconceptions

Cang also debunked some common misconceptions about PUVMP.

Among them was the misconception that individual drivers bear the financial burden of loan repayments. He clarified that under the PUVMP, it is the cooperatives as legal entities that apply for loans, not the driver as an individual payor, thus distributing the financial responsibility of repaying the loans equitably among members.

“Under the program, it’s not the driver who will apply for the loan; it’s the cooperative as a whole. Mali ‘yung explanation na ‘ah hindi kaya ni driver,’ of course hindi kakayanin ng driver kahit malaki pa yung kita ni driver, hindi kakayanin dahil malaki ang ibubulsa ni driver [The explanation that the driver can't afford it is wrong. Of course, the driver can't afford it; even if the driver's earnings are big enough, it won't suffice because the driver has a lot in his pocket to spend],” he explained.

He also emphasized that it is the cooperatives' collective efforts that are always instrumental in securing loan approvals for the purchase of modern jeepney units.

In addition, Cang said that the national government’s support for the program extends beyond the cooperative framework. The DOTr, according to him, offers an "equity subsidy" of up to P360,000 per unit, further reducing the financial load on cooperatives.

He also said that, on top of that, the city government provides a “Special Support Fund for Transport Service Cooperatives or Transport Service Corporations” in line with Ordinance No. 58 series of 2020.

LADOTRANSCO general manager Robert Cang talked about the significance of pushing the PUV Modernization Program of the government to improve the transport operations system in the country. Cang urged transport groups to support the program and to consider it an investment for future generations in an interview with PIA's "Rated PIA," hosted by PIA SarGen Provincial Information Center manager Catherine Apelacio and information officer Harlem Jude Ferolino, which aired over dxGS General Santos on Tuesday, January 9. (Photo: PIA SarGen)

Investment for future generations

Cang urged the public and those groups that continue to resist the consolidation to support the program as an investment for future generations.

Hindi na po tayo ‘yung makikinabang dito, ‘yung apo, ‘yung anak ng apo natin, ang makikinabang sa pagbabago ng ating public transport. Dahil tayo po ay nagko-contribute sa greenhouse gas emissions sa ating bansa. Tulungan natin ang ating gobyerno, tulungan natin ang ating sarili na makalanghap naman ng presko at sariwang hangin, by using modern jeepneys [It is not us who will benefit from this, but our grandchildren, our grandchildren’s children, who will benefit from the changes in our public transport. We are contributing to greenhouse gas emissions in our country. Let us help our government; let us help ourselves to breathe in fresh and clean air by using modern jeepneys],” Cang appealed on the 'Rated PIA' radio program.

Christian Jessie Melitante, a college student, lauded the modern air-conditioned minibuses. “Mas ganahan ko magsakay kay mas comfy, at the same time dili siya hassle sa akoa [I prefer riding these buses as they are more comfortable and save me any hassle,” he said.

Agreeing to the statement, Cang addressed the public, stressing, “Doon sa ating mananakay [To our passengers], we are giving you the best experience of public transport using modern jeeps [with] the convenience, comfortability, and predictability that we will provide, at ‘yung pamasahe po hindi po yan tataas (and the fare rate will not increase).”

He insisted that PUV modernization is never the cause of a fare hike. “Hindi po dahil sa modernization ang pagtaas ng rate ng pamasahe [It is not modernization that causes a fare hike],” he said.

Cang also expressed the hope that Gensan cooperatives will have more e-jeepneys under their ownership in the future. So far, he said their cooperative only has 44 e-jeeps at present since Gensan does not have any charging stations yet. 

He also urged the government to reconsider extending the consolidation this year to give other jeepney drivers and operators in other areas the chance to consolidate under PUVMP.

As General Santos City continues to lead the way in PUV modernization in the country, it also hopes for other cities to emulate what it started and glean from its successes and valuable lessons, especially on the importance of embracing change and offering full-bodied support to any prospects that may affect the status quo and norms. (HJPF/CTA - PIA SarGen)

About the Author

Harlem Jude Ferolino

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Region 12

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