Authorities on Thursday warned members of various transport groups of the consequences of holding another protest rally against the government’s public utility vehicle modernization program.
Thomas Orbos, general manager of the Metro Manila Development Authority, also called on officials of the Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operators Nationwide (Piston) and other militant transport groups to “put the interest of the riding public at front and center.”
“It is high time for them to stop prioritizing their own interests, and start considering the interest of the riding public which, for the longest time, has been clamoring for a safe, convenient and environment-friendly system of public transport,” he said.
Orbos, who is also the concurrent Transportation undersecretary for Road and Infrastructure, explained that the modernization program is aimed at modernizing the fleet of jeepneys, not phase them out.
“It is all about the commuters. We need to finally give respect to our commuters and provide public transport that dignifies the riding public by giving them safe, convenient and efficient public transport,” he said.
Transportation secretary Arthur Tugade reminded jeepney operators that as holders of franchises, they have a responsibility to the public. He said the government, which has the full support of the riding public in implementing the program, cannot allow such groups to disrupt public convenience.
Tugade tapped the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board and Land Transportation Office to pursue the cancellation of the franchises and licenses of the PUV operators and drivers who would join the planned transport strike on December 4 and 5.
“We have invited Piston to dialogues, but still they insisted on holding strikes. Other transport groups sat down with us and we discussed the program together. Why can’t Piston do that? I am positive that when they do, they will understand and they will agree that it is time to overhaul the public transportation system,” he said.
With the exception of Piston, the program has gained the overwhelming support of different public transport groups.
Among them are the Federation of Jeepney Operators and Drivers Association of the Philippines, Alliance of Concerned Transport Organizations, Pangkalahatang Sanggunian Manila and Suburb Drivers Association Nationwide Inc., Pasang Masda, Land Transportation Organization of the Philippines , Alliance of Transport Operators and Drivers Association of the Philippines, and an overwhelmingly majority of provincial transport cooperatives all over the country.
Previous rallies held, according to MMDA officials, had a minimal effect on commuters.
The agency added that concerned agencies like the Department of Transportation and LTO, and and local government units also provided buses and vehicles to ferry passengers to their destinations.
The transport groups staged the strikes to demand the junking of the phase out program, saying the move would massacre the livelihood of over 600,000 PUJ drivers and operators.
Under the program, the government will impose a 15-year age limit on PUJs as it aims to modernize the fleet of jeepneys plying the roads through a low carbon and low emission vehicle technology.
Standards on carbon emission and fleet management and maintenance would also be imposed to ensure passenger safety, and improve ambient air quality.
To address operators’ and drivers’ concern of undue economic burden from having to purchase brand new jeepney units, the government would allow them to apply for loans with the Development Bank of the Philippines.
The government would set up a guarantee fund to secure the loans of the operators and drivers.