Transport groups in Duterte turf Davao opt for picket vs LTFRB
DAVAO CITY–Drivers and operators of extinction-bound jeepneys in the hometown of President Rodrigo Duterte chose the path of least resistance on the day thousands of their colleagues elsewhere left their jeepneys parked to join a nationwide transport strike in protest of a government program to remove the ageing transport contraptions off the road.
Instead of leaving behind their jeepneys and massing up in the streets, drivers and operators here picketed the offices of the Land Transportation and Franchising Regulatory Board (LTFRB), which is leading the implementation of the modernization program.
Larry Arguilles, secretary general of Transmission Piston Southern Mindanao, said drivers and operators here faced a future bleaker than their colleagues in Metro Manila because of the city’s High Priority Bus Sytem (HPBS) plan, which Arguilles said would obliterate all public utility jeepneys (PUJs).
Arguilles said the modernization program in Davao City was different from that in the National Capital Region because old jeepneys in NCR may still be repaired to pass standards.
“Here they will totally phase out all PUJs and replace these with buses,” he said.
He said more than 5,000 drivers and operators would lose their source of livelihood because they have no means to purchase buses to heed the city program.
Amid a threat by the LTFRB to suspend franchises of those who would join the strike, transport groups here opted to picket the LTFRB office.
Arguilles, however, said Davao transport groups’ alternative action did not mean they were not one with colleagues in NCR demanding a review of, if not a stop to the modernization program.
“This picket signifies that PUJ drivers and operators are against the government program,” said Arguilles.
Transport groups in the city, he said, also turned down a proposal by the LTFRB for them to form cooperatives and apply for bus franchises to replace their jeepneys, which had characterized Philippine transportation following World War II.
“Buses are very expensive for us,” said Arguilles.
Forming cooperatives, he added, “won’t work.” “A single bus would cost about P7 million at a minimum to P13 million and small operators can’t afford that,” he said.
In an interview, Armand Dioso, LTFRB Davao regional chief, confirmed his office had been trying to convince drivers and operators to form cooperatives.
Dioso added that the city government, headed by presidential daughter Sara Duterte, had offered cash aid to drivers and operators for the bus purchase.
Dioso said his office would also offer skills traning program for drivers who would be displaced. Among these is one called Tsuper Iskolar, a project of the Department of Transportation and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.
But Arguilles said transport groups in the city would be “amenable” to the bus system only if it would not obliterate jeepneys.
“If they phase out PUJs, many will be displaced. These displaced drivers will add to unemployed Filipinos,” he said.
Dioso said it was within the power of the LTFRB to seize the franchises of drivers and operators who joined the strike.
“Those who joined the strike committed economic sabotage,” Dioso said. “That is a violation of the mandates of their franchises,” he said./TSB
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