11 groups siding with PBBM won’t protest; VP Sara tags action as ‘communist-inspired’
Commuters are bracing for a weeklong transport strike beginning today, involving thousands of jeepney and UV Express drivers protesting the government’s modernization program that could phase out their old vehicles.
At a media forum in Quezon City, Ariel Lim, national convener of the National Public Transport Coalition, said the program should be covered by a law that would consider the validity of the government’s push to consolidate the sector and its readiness for integrating electric vehicles in the country’s transport system.
Other transport group leaders said the government should not force the modernization policies on drivers and operators who are already struggling.
However, Malacanang said in a statement more transport groups in Metro Manila and across the country are heeding the call of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and expressed opposition to the strike.
The Palace said in Metro Manila, 11 big jeepney and UV groups have strongly opposed the planned strike by Manibela, an alliance of UV drivers and a party-list group, and PISTON.
Groups not joining the strike, according to the Palace, include the National Federation of Transport Cooperatives (NFTC), Alliance of Transport Operators’ & Drivers’ Association of the Philippines (ALTODAP), Liga ng Transportasyon at Operators sa Pilipinas (LTOP), Alliance of Concerned Transport Organization (ACTO); Pasang Masda (PM) Jeepney, Federation of Jeepney Operators and Drivers Association of the Philippines (FEJODAP), Stop and Go Coalition, Senate Employees Transport Service Cooperative (SETSCO), UV Express National Alliance of the Philippines (UV Express) and ACTO NA CORP.
Dindo Rosales, the executive coordinator of Boses ng Masang Pilipino, criticized the government’s credit loan program and consolidation, saying this would take away the rights and ownership of individual drivers and operators over their vehicles.
He said the commuting public should not be made to suffer because of the threat from the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) to phase out traditional jeepneys.
George Royeca, co-Founder and CEO of Pinoy firm Angkas, assured the riding public that operations of its motorcycle taxis will continue unhampered and will be available for commuters.
Royeca assured Filipino commuters there will be no price surges and no extra fees, and called on commuters to report any erring Angkas rider who will demand an extra fare. He also reminded passengers to book rides earlier than usual to avoid inconveniences.
Lim slammed the LTFRB for being unprepared for the effects of consolidation, arguing that the cooperatives or corporations that itwants are likely to fail. He dismissed the agency’s extension of the deadline for consolidation.
“You’re not ready. How do you expect us to consolidate if you are not ready?” he said in Filipino. “You are forcing us to consolidate and surrender our livelihood for a franchise, when we know the corporations or cooperatives will fail.”
Lim also questioned the government’s readiness to incorporate electric vehicles in the public transport mix and asked where the charging stations are, and what measures have been taken to ensure the environmentally safe disposal of spent batteries.
Samuel Ramos of the Manila Taxi and Regional Association said he feared they too would suffer the same fate in the coming years.
On Saturday, Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista acknowledged that the modernization program would be difficult to implement, but said the goal was to make public transport affordable.
He said industry consolidation would end the boundary system, create a proper work schedule for drivers, create jobs for mechanics, dispatchers, and administrative staff to make operations more efficient.
Some transport groups said they would not join the strike.
The Federation of Jeepney Operators and Drivers Association of the Philippines (FEJODAP), for example, said it would continue servicing commuters.
Many commuters would suffer unnecessarily when the problems could be solved by sitting down to dialogue, said the group’s president, Ricardo Rebaño, in a radio interview.
He said most FEJODAP members, including those outside Metro Manila, told him they would not join the strike.
Other groups such as Pasang Masda, ALTODAP, BCDO, and ACTO that earlier committed to joining the strike have backed out, said Lando Marquez, president of the Liga ng Transportasyon at Operators sa Pilipinas (LTOP).
The transport group PISTON, on the other hand, said it would join the transport strike, saying the LTFRB move to extend the deadline for consolidation was not enough.
Mody Floranda said the group wants the government to junk the franchise consolidation altogether.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) said it has put its units on heightened alert ahead of the transport strike this week.
PNP Public Information Office chief Police Col. Red Maranan said 80 percent of the police force will be on duty to provide aid and security to commuters who will be affected by the strike.
Maranan said the PNP will allocate mobile patrol vehicles to provide free rides to commuters to their destinations.
He also advised the public to be cautious and refrain from going out if they do not have important plans.
Also over the weekend, Vice President Sara Duterte-Carpio blasted the transport strike as being “communist-inspired” and pointless.
Duterte-Carpio, who heads the Department of Education, also said the strike will disrupt classes and keep students from learning.
But the Alliance of Concerned Teachers party-list group said it supported the strike.
“For us teachers, we support our PUV drivers and operators in their fight for their livelihood. They are our partners in our daily struggles to do our jobs and earn a living. We feel them and wesupport their demand for a pro-people modernization of public transportation,” said Rep. France Castro.
Castro also hit the DepEd announcement that there would be nosuspension of physical classes as insensitive and Duterte-Carpio’s remarks as red-tagging.
Puwersa ng Bayaning Atleta party-list Rep. Margarita Nograles appealed to jeepney drivers and operators to reject calls to join the nationwide transport strike and consider the long-term benefits of the modernization program.
Also over the weekend, the Manila International Airport Authority said it would implement contingency measures to cushion the effects of the strike on the operation of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport this week.
The MIAA also urged all air passengers to give ample time from the usual three hours before flight departure time to be at the NAIA. Local airlines also advised passengers to allocate more time for travel to the airport.