MANILA – Transport groups PISTON and the No to Jeepney Phaseout Coalition are pushing through with their 2-day nationwide transport strike to protest the government’s PUV modernization program, even though classes in all levels have been suspended and work in government offices and courts halted for Monday.
The groups said they do not object to the modernization of jeepneys, hundreds of thousands of which have ruled Metro Manila’s streets as well as those of key cities for decades, many of them in poor working condition and blamed for air pollution.
The groups said they support the idea of having new and environment-friendly jeeps.
They, however, object to the financials, saying planners should have realized that the repayment schemes for loans for the modernization are not affordable to most small operators and drivers, and will put hundreds of thousands of drivers out of jobs.
A modern jeep under the program will cost from P1.6- 1.8 million, and borrowers will have to pay on average P800 pesos daily for seven years to repay this – a situation they are certain will mire them in debt.
The protesting groups are seeking a dialogue to thresh out more affordable schemes.
5am start; points covered
The rallies start at 5am Monday (Oct. 16) in various parts of the country.
The Office of the Executive Secretary on Sunday announced suspension of classes in all levels in public and private schools, as well as work in government offices, to avoid leaving students and workers stranded. Malacañang left it up to private offices to declare their own suspensions; and to the respective heads of other branches of government, of constitutional commissions and other independent bodies, to make their own decisions as well.
Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno also suspended work in all courts nationwide.
According to the protest organizers, the rally points in Metro Manila are:
Pedro Gil corner Taft
Some 200,000 jeepney drivers are expected to join the strike, organizers said.
“Pinaglalaban namin dito mga operator and driver — yung attempt ng government na ibaon sila sa utang . Kawalan nila ng kabuhayan. Makatarungan ang transport strike [We are fighting here to spare the operators and drivers from being plunged into debt and losing their livelihood. This transport strike is just],” said PISTON national president George San Mateo.
He said they do not object to “modernization as a concept,” adding, “sino ba ayaw magmaneho ng bagong sasakyan, environmental na sasakyan? [who doesn’t want to drive a new, clean vehicle]?” But, he added, the scheme is not designed to provide a livelihood and with a thought for convenience of commuters, who will be burdened with a fare hike.
He said authorities should junk the scheme and go into dialogue with the affected groups for a “nationalized, affordable” plan that does not simply allow big business to reap profits.
San Mateo also took issue with the remarks of Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board board member Aileen Lizada that the strike is part of a destabilization campaign.
MMDA deploying ‘Kalayaan rides’
The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) will be providing government vehicles and military trucks known as “Kalayaan Rides” for passengers affected by the strike to be staged by the Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (PISTON) on October 16 and 17.
At least 41 vehicles will be deployed at the MMDA parking lot in Guadalupe, Makati City; Luneta; Commonwealth Avenue; Camp Aguinaldo and Monumento, according to MMDA spokesperson Celine Pialago.
“We will be providing 10 buses for each area that will be affected by the strike,” Pialago said in a text message to reporters.
“We are considering deploying more buses in the Commonwealth Avenue as most of the members of PISTON are expected to congregate in the area,” the MMDA spokesperson added.
The MMDA will also deploy its traffic personnel, rescue teams and ambulances to provide assistance for stranded commuters.
The LTFRB earlier said that it will provide 20 buses in various parts of Metro Manila.
NCRPO working with LGUs
Meanwhile, Philippine National Police-National Capital Region Police Office (PNP-NCRPO) head., Chief Superintendent Oscar Albayalde, ordered the police district directors in Metro Manila to coordinate with local government units (LGUs) for the Libreng Sakay and out up police assistance desks in jeepney terminals to prevent harassment of drivers who will not participate in the strike.
“RD-NCRPO (Regional Director) will go around affected areas, we will start by visiting the MMDA control room where the task force usually convene during strikes,” PNP-NCRPO spokesperson, Chief Inspector Kimberly Molitas, said.
The Joint Quick Response Team — composed of the LTFRB, MMDA, Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police, Department of Transportation, Philippine Coast Guard, Department of Public Works and Highways, Office of Transport Security — will be activated during the transport strike with its command and control base at the MMDA Metrobase in Makati City.
PNP-Highway Patrol Group (PNP-HPG) will monitor areas where harassment and threats against drivers and operators who will not participate in the strike are reported.
Enforcers of the MMDA and LTFRB will likewise be on the ground to monitor strikers.