Well, that's a surprise.

The Department of Transportation (DOTr) has been firm on their stand for the upgraded jeepney system, also known as the PUV Modernization Program or PUVMP. The critical issue of the matter has been the push to phase out older jeepneys, or at least relegate them to secondary or even provincial routes.

But in a recent announcement, it seems the DOTr is scaling back on the language to phase out or relegate older jeepneys, expressing a special consideration to operators of older jeepneys that cannot afford to get a modern PUV by July 2020.

According to the DOTr, old PUVs will be given a chance to ply routes provided, however, that they pass a roadworthiness test under the new Motor Vehicle Inspection System (MVIS). If the vehicle passes the tests at a Motor Vehicle Inspection Center (MVIC), then they will be granted a provisional authority (PA) to continue running their routes for 1 year.

DOTr: Old jeepneys can continue if they pass vehicle inspection image

The phase out of the jeepney has been the bone of contention for the PUVMP. If we recall correctly, no previous administration has taken such a decisive stance on the phase out of jeepneys given the strength of groups such as PISTON, as well as the public's reliance on transport based on the design of post-World War II vehicles.

As such, the drive for PUVMP has resulted in numerous strikes by various jeepney groups.

The announcement could be a key olive branch for jeepney groups, provided that the older PUVs do pass the MVIS that the Land Transportation Office (LTO) will implement.

But jeepney drivers should beware: MVIS will not be an easy test to pass.

DOTr: Old jeepneys can continue if they pass vehicle inspection image

One distributor of inspection equipment shows that the MVIS will check a vehicle's steering (steering play, etc), brakes, safety equipment (seatbelts, lamps, etc.), emissions, headlights, electrical, fuel and more. Each light vehicle should take about 15 minutes to fully inspect. A jeepney will have to pass all of those tests to receive a PA.

The DOTr touts the set up of MVIS to be somewhat foolproof by doing away with with as much human intervention as they can. If you recall, some emissions test centers have been known to falsify results or circumvent testing in order to let certain vehicles pass, usually in exchange for a kickback of some sort. The process is as computerized as they can make it, and has CCTVs to monitor the entire check.

The DOTr stresses, however, that the move to find a way to extend PA's to older jeepneys shouldn't be misinterpreted as saying that the PUVMP is in neutral. In fact, the DOTr says that the PUVMP remains on track for full implementation.