Piston to join jeepney strike: Delaying phaseout not enough
MANILA, Philipppines — One of the country’s biggest transport groups has decided to join this week’s strike in Metro Manila and other regions in protest of the government’s public utility vehicle (PUV) modernization program.
Modesto Floranda, president of the Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operators Nationwide (Piston), said on Saturday that an estimated 100,000 drivers and operators from his group will join the weeklong strike beginning on Monday.
Last week, transport group Manibela, which had called the strike, said around 70,000 of its members are expected to take part in that protest.
Floranda said Piston’s participation was prompted by the Senate hearing last Thursday on the PUV modernization program, which only led to the Land Transportation and Franchising Regulatory Board (LTFRB) moving the June 30 deadline for the phaseout of old jeepneys.
He lamented the government’s insistence on implementing Department Order No. 2017-011 of the Department of Transportation (DOTr).
The order from 2017 directs individual franchise holders to consolidate themselves under one fleet management system or under a cooperative or a corporation.
“Had the government committed to totally suspend this implementation during the hearing, our stand may have changed. But since they are insistent on that deadline, that’s when our members decided to join [the strike],” Floranda told the Inquirer in a phone interview.
No means to ‘modernize’
He clarified that Piston was not against the modernization program itself but its implementation.
But he also acknowledged that drivers and operators were averse to being “monopolized” under one cooperative, and would rather continue to be recognized as individual franchise holders.
Their chief objection, however, to the program is that they cannot afford to borrow money to upgrade their vehicles, Floranda said.
Mar Valbuena, chair of Manibela, affirmed that point, saying that not all franchise holders have the means to “modernize” their jeepneys.
“It is high time for the government to listen to these drivers and operators and consider why many are wary of the modernization program,” he said.
Valbuena and Floranda expect the strike beginning on Monday to become nationwide.
Their groups will hold a caravan at 7 a.m. on Monday, beginning at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City, and passing by the LTFRB main office on East Avenue on the way to Mendiola Bridge in Manila, their last stop for that day.
But according to the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, the so-called “Magnificent 7” of the country’s transport groups have decided not to join the strike.
The agency was earlier referring to the Federation of Jeepney Operators and Drivers Association of the Philippines, UV Express group, Association of Concerned Transport Organizations, Pasang-Masda, Liga ng Transportasyon at Operators sa Pilipinas, Alliance of Transport Operators and Drivers Association of the Philippines, and Piston, which will now join the protest.
But in Central Luzon, PUV drivers who were expected earlier to join the strike said they will no longer take part, after Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista promised them that even the new December deadline for the phaseout of the old jeepneys will no longer be imposed.
Danilo Yumul, chair of the Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Tutol sa Phase Out, said 60,000 drivers and operators in the region’s seven provinces agreed on a “no-strike move” only on Saturday.
Nevertheless, he noted that the DOTr could not proceed with the jeepney phaseout as planned.
Yumul cited government data showing that in the last seven years since the modernization program was launched, only 6,814 PUVs—about 8 percent of the estimated 200,000 units nationwide—have been registered with the LTFRB for a mere technical assessment of those vehicles.
—WITH REPORTS FROM TONETTE OREJAS AND DELFIN T. MALLARI JR.
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