Wednesday, December 13, 2017
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Transport strike pushes through in Albay

DRIVERS’ MARCH Jeep drivers and their supporters march along España Avenue toward Mendiola in Manila to protest the government’s plan to phase out jeepneys that are at least 15 years old under its transport modernization program. —MARIANNE BERMUDEZ

A regional transport group staged a strike on Monday in Albay province to oppose the phaseout of old jeepneys despite the call of its national organization to defer a two-day strike to heed the request of Sen. Grace Poe, chair of the Senate public service committee.

George San Mateo, president of Piston (Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide) announced on Sunday that his group and its supporters would just hold caravans and rallies to give way to the public hearing on their concerns called by Poe.

The Concerned Drivers and Operators-Piston (Condor-Piston) Bicol claimed to have succeeded in paralyzing public transport in Albay.

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Condor-Piston said 85 percent or more than 2,000 of the local jeepney operators and drivers joined the regionwide strike.

Stranded commuters

Ramon Rescovilla, deputy secretary general of Condor-Piston, said the strike, which started at Sunday midnight, stranded commuters in the 14 towns and three cities in
Albay.

Commuters mostly affected by the strike were employees reporting for work in the cities of Tabaco, Ligao and Legazpi, where the regional government center and the central business district of Albay are located.

The Albay Public Safety and Emergency Management Office (Apsemo) called off school in the province on Monday due to the strike.

The Apsemo said government agencies in strike-affected areas provided free rides and deployed trucks to ferry commuters.

No transport strike was reported in Sorsogon, Masbate and Camarines Norte provinces.

In Sorsogon City, 22 members of Piston staged a rally protesting the government’s jeepney phaseout plan, the Bicol regional police said.

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Iloilo caravan

In Iloilo City, jeepney drivers and operators joined a caravan, part of nationwide protest actions against the planned phaseout of jeepneys 15 years and older.

The 30-vehicle caravan led by Piston and other associations of jeepney drivers and operators started at the public transport terminal in Barangay Mohon in Arevalo district and proceeded to other terminals in Mandurriao and Jaro districts.

They held a program in front of the Western Visayas office of the Land Transportation Office, and Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board before ending the caravan at the Jaro district public plaza.

Small operators excluded

Piston-Panay coordinator Edgar Salarda said the group was not against the public utility vehicle (PUV) modernization program as long as the cost would be shouldered by the government and the program would not be detrimental to small transport operators and drivers.

Salarda noted that under the government’s proposed program, individual small owners would not be allowed to operate jeepneys and only corporations or cooperatives could run a fleet of at least 10 jeepneys, which would cost more than a P1 million each.

“The program is clearly packaged for big transport companies and against small and individual operators and their drivers,” Salarda said.

He said Piston-Panay was hoping that its voice would be heard and considered at the hearing of the Senate committee on public services on the transportation modernization program.

Poe, chair of the committee on public services, has moved the hearing from Dec. 7 to Dec. 11 so jeepney operators and drivers could hold a dialogue with Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade.

Poe on Monday said that she decided to reschedule the hearing as Tugade had prior engagements.

She appealed to Piston and the Stop Jeepney Phaseout Coalition to allow the change in schedule. Otherwise, she said, only department undersecretaries would be able to meet with them if the hearing were held on Thursday.

“I know that they want to face Secretary Tugade. That’s why I made the decision to move it to Monday. I did not let Secretary Tugade off the hook. I pressed him to give me a date when he is free and he said he is available on Monday,” Poe said.

At the congressional oversight committee hearing on the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines’ preparations for the Christmas season, Tugade told Poe he was not attending Thursday’s hearing because of previous commitments.

Plan is ‘antipoor’

The senator has filed a resolution calling for an inquiry into the PUV modernization program, which the government is pushing despite the supposed lack of route rationalization plans.

Piston said the program was “antipoor” as the cost to replace an old jeepney was between P1.5 million and P1.8 million.

“While the intent of the PUV modernization program is laudable, it may have unintended negative effects for hundreds of thousands of jeepney drivers and operators and consequently, the commuting public considering that several issues remain to be threshed out,” Poe said.

The modernization program will affect 270,000 jeepneys nationwide and displace some 650,000 drivers, according to the Crispin B. Beltran Research Center.

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TAGS: Albay transport strike, Condor-Piston, George San Mateo, Grace Poe, Piston
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