7-day strike vs jeepney ban set in Metro Manila, regions
MANILA, Philippiines — Various transport groups are staging a weeklong strike beginning March 6 to contest the impending phaseout of traditional jeepneys.
Mar Valbuena, national president of Manibela, said the “tigil pasada,” the first major protest of the sector since public utility vehicles (PUVs) were allowed to operate under full capacity since the pandemic struck three years ago, would involve an estimated 40,000 traditional jeepneys and UV express units and would “ensure employees won’t be able to come to work.”
Valbuena did not disclose the specific routes that would be affected but said the strike would be held in Metro Manila, Central Luzon, Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon), and other regions as well.
“We ask for the understanding of the public. If we don’t fight this, the commuters will suffer more,” he said.
In a press briefing on Monday, groups including the Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operators Nationwide, Manibela, Alsa Jeep, and the National Confederation of Tricycle Operators and Drivers Association of the Philippines urged the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) to scrap the June 30 deadline for traditional jeepney operators and drivers to join cooperatives or risk losing their franchises or provisional authorities (PAs).
“If the LTFRB would not take back the memorandum circular, we will proceed with this and it’s not only going to be a strike, we will also bring the traditional jeeps and UV express in front of the LTFRB so they could see how big we are,” Valbuena warned.
Appeal to dialogue
Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista on Monday appealed to transport groups to have a dialogue with the concerned government agencies before deciding on a strike.
“Maybe we should think carefully about stopping operations. We should talk first. Let’s understand what the issues are because maybe we just don’t understand each other,” Bautista said in an interview with Press Secretary Cheloy Velicaria-Garafil in Cebu City.
“I think the problem is that the DOTr (Department of Transportation) had no representative during the (earlier) discussions to clarify the issues. So I have already instructed the undersecretary for the road sector to coordinate with the LTFRB and with the operators,” he added.
Bautista clarified that they were giving enough time to transport groups to raise enough funds to buy new units for their operations as required by the government’s PUV modernization program.
He pointed out that there would be no phaseout of old PUV units in areas where groups could not acquire new units for their designated routes.
According to Bautista, the DOTr has been working closely with the state-owned Development Bank of the Philippines and Land Bank of the Philippines to help transport groups and cooperatives finance the acquisition of modernized transport units.
The franchises for traditional jeepneys were originally set to expire by the end of March nationwide, except for Metro Manila where the PAs are valid until the end of April.
This was extended under Memorandum Circular No. 2023-013 approved by the LTFRB on Feb. 20, allowing traditional jeepneys to operate using PAs until June 30 to give them more time to consolidate—either through a cooperative or a corporation—as part of the government’s PUV modernization program.
After June 30, only those who are part of the consolidated entity will be allowed to have their franchises extended until Dec. 31.
This is in line with the transportation department’s Order No. 2017-011, or Omnibus Franchising Guidelines issued on June 19, 2017, which stipulates that only corporations or cooperatives with at least 15 vehicles will be allowed to apply for franchises covering major routes.
“Individual operators may join an existing consolidated entity until 30 of June 2023. Only those individual operators who are able to join an existing consolidated entity on or before 30 June 2023 shall be allowed to have their PA extended until 31 December 2023,’’ the memorandum added.
The regulatory board also clarified that cooperatives or consolidated entities must be duly accredited by the Office of Transportation Cooperatives.
The implementation of the PUV modernization program has been long delayed and deadlines repeatedly extended to help operators cope with the adverse economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Joel Bolano, LTFRB technical division chief, earlier clarified that the agency was only targeting to initially address the consolidation component of the modernization program.
“It does not mean that once you join [a cooperative] you need to change your unit right away,” he said at a press briefing on Friday.
“They will operate the [unit] whether modern or traditional until December as long as they are consolidated,” Bolano said.
The next step after consolidation would be the fleet management system requiring operators to purchase 15 imported and modernized minibuses that cost P2.4 million to P2.8 million each.