Piston head: Actually, transport strike was successful
MANILA, Philippines – “Do not underestimate the power of the masses because it has been proven in history that the Filipino people are capable of overthrowing a dictator’s government.”
That was the reaction of Mody Floranda, national president of Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (Piston), to the statement of Celine Pialago, spokesperson of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) that the transport strike on Monday was unsuccessful.
Pialago also noted that class and work suspensions were more of precautionary measures than a sign of defeat on the part of the government.
“Let’s be real on this matter, they cannot do this every day. So they cannot threaten the government, classes and work were suspended not to show that government is afraid of them, rather it is only out of concern for the commuters’ welfare,” Pialago said in a separate interview with INQUIRER.net.
“We don’t want people to gamble on commuting during strikes but it doesn’t mean they were successful. Inconveniencing commuters due to selfishness is never a measure of success,” she added.
In an interview with INQUIRER.net, Floranda countered Pialago, saying: “Actually, their own admission that they have to use buses to help commuters, it shows that the transport strike today was actually successful. If the strike did not affect them, they would have not brought out buses out of their routes.”
“Instead of facing the concerns, they are saying so many things. They should understand why the public drivers protested, why they chose to take their concerns to the streets,” Floranda, who led Piston members in the rally at Welcome Rotonda, said.
Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) Secretary-General Renato Reyes, who was also present at the Welcome Rotonda, said that MMDA officials should understand the sacrificed made by the drivers and operators — letting go of a day’s income just to deliver a message.
“It is easy to dismiss the strike as a mere inconvenience for commuters. This narrow viewpoint best expressed by the MMDA denies the existence of the valid issues being raised by the drivers,” Reyes said in a message.
“It fails to grasp that the biggest sacrifice today is done by the drivers who will not earn any income because they joined the protest. In every strike, it is the striking worker who makes the greatest sacrifice,” he added.
Not against modernization
The transport strike tackled a myriad of issues from oil price hikes, excise tax, but the focal point is the impending phaseout of jeepneys and UV Express vehicles by 2020. Under the jeepney modernization program, vehicles 15 years old or older should be compliant with Euro 4 standards if they would want to continue operating.
The modernization program is expected to affect around 240,000 jeepneys and 80,000 UV express vehicles.
Pialago defended the program and urged protesters to take a look at their vehicles and assess if they would be convenient for commuters.
“Are the people comfortable in riding old PUVs? Aren’t you contributing to global warming by emitting dark, toxic emissions, while some of the jeepneys already have sharp edges and have no proper seats?” she asked.
Reyes and Floranda insisted they were not against modernization, but said that the implementation of such programs should consider small operators and drivers.
“We are not against modernization,” Reyes said. “Indeed, our transport system should be modernized. However, we need to take into account the livelihood of the drivers who will be displaced.”
“I hope the MMDA becomes aware of why protests are held,” Floranda added. “I hope they help in resolving the problems of drivers and operators […] What we are against is the way this modernization is being done, because it would forcibly remove our rights to franchises as drivers and operators, only to be given to rich corporations.”