Strike fails to paralyze public transport – MMDA
MANILA, Philippines — Anticipating the possible impact of the weeklong transport strike, Mary Jane Pastelero allotted three hours of travel time from her house in San Mateo, Rizal province, to her workplace in Quezon City on Monday.
She said it was “difficult” to get a ride as she waited about 30 minutes at Philcoa on Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City, for a jeepney going to Welcome Rotunda.
Some other commuters going to Quiapo scrambled to get inside a bus while others were able to avail themselves of the free shuttle services provided by local government units (LGUs) in Metro Manila.
The lead organizer of the transport strike, Manibela, claimed that the first day of their mass action against the jeepney phaseout turned the National Capital Region into a “ghost town,” but the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) said “it’s like the protest didn’t happen.”
“The contingency plans worked and they were not able to paralyze public transportation,” MMDA Chair Romando Artes said, referring to the buses and trucks deployed by LGUs and other agencies to assist commuters.
In a statement issued early Monday evening, Malacañang said the strike “failed to disrupt the normal public transport operations” particularly in Metro Manila and nearby areas, with the government “efficiently responding” to serve the commuting public.
The Palace quoted MMDA officials as saying that the protesters “failed to cause major disruptions as the transport strike only concentrated in Metro Manila and failed to garner substantial regional support.”
The inter-agency task force monitoring team reported that only some routes were affected by the strike, with the total number of protesters not exceeding 500, it said.
Although there were reports of harassment against drivers not participating in the strike, “police responded well to those harassment cases and [had] also improved police visibility to ensure public safety and order,” it added.
Based on the monitoring of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB), only 10 percent of Metro Manila routes and 5 percent nationwide were affected by the strike.
The “minimal” effect of the transport strike prompted the MMDA to no longer suspend the number coding scheme starting today.
Except for some areas in the Bicol region, the public transport system in most of Luzon was not disrupted by the strike.
In Albay province, unidentified persons threw a rock at a UV Express van in the town center of Polangui early Monday, damaging the windshield, according to transport operator Exequiel Longares, quoting his driver.
The van’s three passengers were unhurt, added Longares, who is also the representative of the Bicol Transport Alliance Federation and national president of the UV Express National Alliance of the Philippines.
His group and the Bicol Intercity Transport Cooperative and the Bicol Jeepney Drivers and Operators did not participate in the transport strike.
In Quezon province, jeepneys plied the streets in the capital city of Lucena where more than 500 drivers and operators have formed three cooperatives to join the government’s public utility vehicle (PUV) modernization program.
“It’s a regular day here. No drivers and operators joined the jeepney strike,” said Freddie Bravo, interim president of the Lucena City Transport Cooperative.
In Northern Luzon, public transportation was normal even as some LGUs and schools canceled in-person classes as a contingency.
At least 13 transport groups in the Cagayan Valley region did not participate in the transport strike, according to the regional office of the LTFRB.
In Pampanga province, all 57 transport associations plying routes in the capital city of San Fernando did not join the protest.
“We have just come from the COVID-19 pandemic. We cannot afford to disrupt travel again,” Albert Garcia, president of the San Fernando Federation, told the Inquirer.
In Bulacan province, passenger jeepneys continued to operate, but Gov. Daniel Fernando still deployed free rides to ensure that no commuters would be stranded in case some drivers joined the strike.
Picket, prayer rally
Most transport groups in the Visayas did not join the strike as well, but members of the Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (Piston) in Cebu held a two-hour picket in front of the LTFRB regional office in Cebu City around 10 a.m.
While some PUV drivers joined the rally, it hardly affected the usual movement of public transport in Metro Cebu, said LTFRB Central Visayas Director Eduardo Montealto Jr.
Piston Cebu chair Greg Perez said they did not join the transport strike because they had a different scenario in Cebu, where modern PUVs and members of transport cooperatives were already a majority.
In Bacolod City, Negros Occidental, transport groups held a prayer rally at the San Sebastian Cathedral.
In Eastern Visayas, none of the transport groups in the region joined the strike, according to the local police.
Jeepney drivers and operators who joined the protest pointed out that they were not against the PUV modernization program, but the impending phaseout of traditional jeepneys.
Mar Valbuena of Manibela and Modesto Floranda of Piston urged the LTFRB to scrap the memorandum circular mandating the consolidation of individual jeepney operators, saying that it would eventually lead to the phaseout of the vehicles.
In a press briefing, LTFRB Chair Teofilo Guadiz III clarified that the program intends to upgrade and rehabilitate jeepneys.
“It is not more of a ‘phaseout’ but more of an ‘upgrading’ of the jeepneys. We are merely rehabilitating the jeepneys and the possibility of a phaseout is very remote,” he said.
In Congress, House Assistant Minority Leader and Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas on Monday slammed the government’s “antagonistic” response to the transport strike.
—WITH REPORTS FROM JEANNETTE I. ANDRADE, DALE G. ISRAEL, JOEY GABIETA, CARLA GOMEZ, MA. APRIL MIER-MANJARES, DELFIN T. MALLARI JR., VILLAMOR VISAYA JR., TONETTE T. OREJAS, CARMELA REYES-ESTROPE AND JOANNA ROSE AGLIBOT
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