Senator JV Ejercito on Tuesday appealed to the public to “embrace” the government’s public utility vehicle (PUV) modernization plan, saying it would ensure the safety of drivers and passengers.

During a forum on road safety, Ejercito said that such a change is inevitable in the modern era, and that the public should understand that “sacrifices” need to be made.

“The DOTr is pushing for the jeepney modernization…We just have to make sacrifices because we know for a fact that our jeepneys are not really safe, nagsimula yan sa World War 2 and I have driven those jeepneys…I know how unsafe they are, yung mga preno nila, yung clutch, lahat tapos nakatabingi pa kasi hindi kasya. So, I hope that the public would embrace modernization because safety will the primary concern in the new modern jeepney,” Ejercito said.

The Department of Transportation (DOTr) launched the PUV modernization program in June, setting higher safety standards and introducing a new design.

“One of the components of the program is fleet consolidation. The number of units will be determined by the Local Public Transport Route Plan (LPTRP), which is an integral part of the route rationalization program, that will identify the approved routes nationwide,” according to the DOTr.

“The number of units, as well as the maximum number of operators, shall depend on the demand of the approved route. PUVs that are 15 years and older will be phased out and replaced with environment friendly and fuel-efficient units,” it said.

A modern jeepney prototype with the door on the side of the vehicle and a bigger body to accommodate more passengers will be pilot-tested in January 2018, according to Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez.

“We’ll try to retain the look…pero ‘yung safety will be the prime concern. We’ll make sure that the brakes will work better, ‘yung mga clutch—mas maganda kung automatic, pero ‘yung mga clutch kasi talagang matigas na, eh kasi nga galing sa truck nilagay doon, nandun talaga eh halu-halo,” Ejercito said.

“Syempre merong nagsasabi na kawawa naman yung ano eh, we just have to have political will, if you do not have political will, we will not be able to effect change eh…We just have to accept that we are in the modern era, we have to modernize and safety should be the primary concern,” he added.

Malacañang had warned jeepney operators of “legal consequences” if they join the planned two-day nationwide transport strike led by Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide (PISTON) on December 4 and 5.

PISTON is one of the transport groups opposed to the government’s PUV modernization program, saying that it will just bury the drivers and operators in debt.

The group also said that PUV modernization would only raise the minimum fare of jeepneys from P8 to P20, a claim denied by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board. — BM, GMA News