DAGUPAN CITY – The city, in partnership with the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board – Regional Office 1 and the Department of Transportation, conducted a PUV Modernization Forum at CSI Stadia in Dagupan City on March 23.

As Dagupan City was chosen as Region 1’s pilot area for public transport modernization, the agencies started a dialogue with jeepney operators, drivers and stakeholders of the city and the nearby areas.

Dagupan City Mayor Belen T. Fernandez has always been open about her support for the jeepney modernization program as the transport overhaul would also ensure the safety of Dagupenos.

“The safety of both passengers and drivers is our priority. Ang isang driver ay may pamilya, ang passenger ay may pamilya— ayaw ko pong may mangyari sa driver o pasahero dahil pamilya ang apektado.” said Fernandez.

As the program is in line with the mayor’s vision for a clean and safe Dagupan, Fernandez hopes that the national government’s initiative would bring down to zero the vehicular accidents in the city, saying: “Safety always comes first before anything.”

According to Fernandez, the national government’s decision on modernization would also help step up the progress in the city.

“Dagupan is a progressive city and we are always open to suggestions and improvements. We are working on road improvements all over the city, we are also creating new land use which would produce more businesses and more jobs that would generate more passengers for our jeepney drivers.” added Fernandez.

She also reiterated her support for the the city’s jeepney drivers and hoped that the concerns of drivers and operators would be properly presented and addressed in the forum, saying: “The drivers should not be afraid because I am behind all of them. Makinig sana muna tayo sa kanilamg mga  sasabihin dahil ang ating gobierno na ang lumalapit sa atin. We need to open our arms and tell them our concerns so that they can help us. This is also a good thing because they will be taught how to manage the fleet, how to make it workable and profitable for them. Sana maintindihan ng mga drivers kung ano ang gusto ng gobyerno para  sa kanila”

Meanwhile, LTFRB RO1 – Regional Director Edward L. Cabase explained that the forum aimed to debunk “anti-poor” claims, address any misinformation regarding the program and discuss the right financing schemes for the operators.

“The reason we are here is because we are giving you the solution, which is being embraced by the local government for the sake of the riding public and the operators. This forum will also give the operators an opportunity to talk to stakeholders such as Landbank and DBP as we are trying to give them the best financing scheme they could get for the modernization plan. In terms of financing and financial consideration, hindi nila proproblemahin yun because we have our partners.” said Cabase.

Director  Cabase also hailed Mayor  Fernandez for readily welcoming major changes set by the national government on the transport sector, saying: “Napakaswerte ng mga taga-Dagupan for having a very supportive local executive chief.”

The PUV modernization forum provided drivers, operators and stakeholders within the city an overview of the PUV Modernization Program and discussions on the prospective financing schemes for the program as well as its financial viability.

A product presentation was also given by automotive companies such as Star 8 and Green Technology, Yutong, Durabus, Jimbel, ISUZU and Tata.

An open forum was held during the second session in order to address the concerns of jeepney operators and drivers of the city.

The forum was also geared at introducing the advantages of the prototypes exhibited during the forum which will not only include two drivers per vehicle but also two marshals that would assist the drivers as well as protect the passengers.

The city recently conducted a trial run and test drive on the new jeepneys on March 22, by initiating “Libreng Sakay” which allowed passengers to ride a downtown loop-bound Solar E-Jeepney prototype free of charge in order to familiarize both passengers and drivers on the modernization program.

Mayor Belen Fernandez expressed optimism that once the drivers’ concerns are settled, drivers and operators would be more open to try the new possibilities that the national government is introducing through the jeepney modernization program. (Verdelle De Vera/CIO/Mar. 24, 2018)