Piston says it’s a go for Day 2 of transport strike
MANILA, Philippines — Transport group Piston (Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide) said on Monday night that drivers would continue their three-day protest action today even as its first day, according to the government, failed to cripple public transportation in Metro Manila.
“Based on our monitoring as of 11 a.m., there was no major disruption of public transportation in Metro Manila,” the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) acting Chair Romando Artes said in a press conference.
But still, Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) Chair Teofilo Guadiz III met with Piston’s national president Mody Floranda on Araneta Avenue in Quezon City for a dialogue over the Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP).
In its statement on Monday night, Piston criticized the LTFRB’s response that it would look into (“pag-aaralan”) the demands of the strikers.
“We already simplified our demands—remove the deadline [for consolidation of franchises], remove that requirement, junk the [jeepney] phaseout. The LTFRB’s response? They will ‘study’ [our position], always making us hope [for nothing],” the group said.
“How long will they study our demands when the deadline [on consolidation of franchises] is already on Dec. 31? Drivers and operators are being made to hope so that the LTFRB will look like it is concerned about us. But our answer is: On with the strike, on with the fight,” it added.
‘Normal Monday morning’
But as of 3 p.m. on Monday, the MMDA saw fit to deploy only 79 out of 686 vehicles for free rides.
Artes said the agency provided free rides in areas where there was a buildup of commuters waiting for public transport, although he said this could be part of a “normal Monday morning rush hour traffic.”
In Manila, the city government said its Oplan Libreng Sakay had served more than 3,000 affected commuters as of 7 p.m., while the city government of Malabon said it brought more than 1,000 commuters to their destinations.
Taguig City also provided free rides and said it would continue that service today.
Philippine National Police spokesperson Col. Jean Fajardo described the transport strike as “relatively peaceful.”
“No untoward incident as of 1 p.m. and public transportation was not paralyzed. We deployed vehicles for free rides,” she said.The strike led by Piston was also joined by the Samahang Manibela Mananakay at Nagkaisang Terminal ng Transportasyon or Manibela.
The MMDA said there were 550 protesters at 12 rally points across the National Capital Region.
Sara helps out
Vice President Sara Duterte visited the MMDA command center to oversee the agency’s monitoring of the transport strike. The Office of the Vice President also deployed buses to assist stranded commuters.
“We are ready to support the MMDA in their transport strike response. We are also appealing to the group staging the protest to have a dialogue with the government and bring their concerns to the negotiation table,” she said.
Piston has been seeking to have the franchise consolidation requirement of the PUVMP scrapped, saying this “may result in the monopoly of a few big fleet managers or corporations” who have the capital to control PUV routes.
The group also demanded that PUV operators and drivers who had complied with that requirement be allowed to withdraw their franchises.
Also on Monday, AGRI party-list Rep. Wilbert Lee called on the government to simplify the process behind its PUVMP so as not to “torture” transport operators and drivers.
LEE filed on Monday House Resolution No. 1474, which would mandate the LTFRB to “simplify the requirements being asked from applicant franchise owners, transport cooperatives and corporations” and the Land Bank of the Philippines and Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) to facilitate the loan applications of PUV drivers and operators.
He also said Landbank and DBP have special loan programs — the SPEED PUV Loan Program and the Program Assistance to Support Alternative Driving Approaches—for drivers and operators to ensure they have adequate funding to comply with the PUVMP.
But Gabriela party-list Rep. Arlene Brosas called for a halt to the modernization program, as she criticized the “corporate takeover of PUV routes, [since] only big business owners have the financial capacity to purchase the required 15 minibuses to operate a route without being burdened by heavy debts.”
“We demand a fair and inclusive transition that takes into account the welfare and livelihoods of the poor and marginalized,” she said.