The House committee on transportation has set a hearing on January 10 to verify reported anomalies in the public utility vehicle modernization program (PUVMP) which was initiated by the Duterte administration and has allegedly been plagued by corruption and irregularities, with claims that transport officials are in cahoots with manufacturers of the new minibuses that are supposed to replace the jeepney.
The implementation of the PUVMP has been under close scrutiny of late, as the deadline for jeepney operators and drivers to consolidate or join transport cooperatives in order to keep their franchises had recently passed, prompting protests from the drivers and operators that are the most affected by the program. After the deadline has passed, the only extension afforded to unconsolidated jeepneys is they will be allowed to operate only until January 31.
Senator Raffy Tulfo said that the PUVMP reeks of corruption, as the China-made modern jeepney costs P1.7 million more per unit than a locally manufactured vehicle. He said he learned that imported jeepneys from China cost P2.6 to P2.9 million per unit, compared to a brand new unit that local companies such as Sarao and Francisco Motors can make for only P900,000 to P985,000 each.
Allegations of corruption are not uncommon in the Philippines, especially when it comes to significant modernization programs that involve billions of pesos, but in most cases, it is government money that is usually stolen in the form of kickbacks or collusion. However, if corruption is involved in the PUVMP, where government is hardly shelling out any money for the jeepney operators and drivers to upgrade their vehicles, but forcing them instead to consolidate in order to avail of loans as they are forced to upgrade their units, any form of corruption would be doubly damaging, as it affects the stakeholders directly. This makes an investigation by the legislative branch necessary, as it has to be established that nobody is taking advantage of a mandatory modernization program to fleece billions from a sector that was already struggling, even before they were forced to upgrade, notably with minimal support from their own government.*