Western Visayas transport group’s protest starts Monday
ILOILO CITY – Drivers of public transportation in Western Visayas will stop plying their routes for two days starting Monday to protest the planned phaseout of public utility vehicles (PUVs) at least 15 years old.
The Department of Education and local government units have not ordered the suspension of the opening of classes in the elementary and high school levels but some schools have moved or suspended classes for the tertiary and post-graduate school levels.
About 98 percent of public jeepneys in the city and province of Iloilo are expected to stay off their routes starting at 12:01 a.m. Monday until 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday, according to Edgar Salarda, spokesperson of the Pinag-isang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide in Panay.
Drivers and operators of public jeepneys on Guimaras Island plying the routes to and from Buenavista and Jordan towns will also join the strike.
In Aklan, the strike will be led by the Federation of Aklan Integrated Public Transport, Inc. which includes associations of jeepney drivers and operators in the eastern and western areas of the province.
In Capiz, transport groups spearheaded by the Hugpong Transport Capiz will also join the strike.
The transport organizations are opposing the planned modernization program of the Department of Transportation which will involve the phaseout of PUVs.
Salarda said the plan program will require PUV operators to buy electric and Euro 4 engine jeepneys under the management of a private fleet company.
He said the implementation of the plan will affect 600,000 public jeepneys nationwide including about 12,000 in Western Visayas because at least 80 percent of PUVs are at least 15 years old.
He said this would result in the loss of livelihood of drivers and operators and small businessmen dependent on public transport.
Under the modernization program, public jeepney operators will need a minimum capital of P7 million to operate a minimum of 20 jeepneys, according to Salarda.
He said operators and drivers will be pushed to ask for higher fare from commuters because of the higher expenses and capital requirement.
The transport groups are instead pushing for the government to help rehabilitate PUVs 15 years old and older if the plan is meant to help curb emissions.
In Iloilo, the provincial capitol and city hall will remain operational during the strike.
Gov. Arthur Defensor has ordered the deployment of vehicles to pick up employees from town centers and other designated areas.
Iloilo City Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog has also directed the fielding of 60 vehicles to provide free rides to commuters and employees.