The jeepney protest Monday led by Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide, or PISTON, affected traffic flow at various points of Metro Manila and several other places beyond the National Capital Region, especially at the morning rush hour.
The strike was PISTON’s way of bringing attention to its member drivers and operators’ opposition to the jeepney modernization program of the government.
George San Mateo, the National president of PISTON, said: “Pinaglalaban namin dito ng mga operator at driver yung tangka ng pamahalaan na ibaon sila sa utang (Our drivers and operators are fighting the government’s attempt to put us in debt).”
San Mateo was alluding to the Public Utility Vehicles Modernization Program, which entails putting up capital that the sector’s small players can ill-afford and would force them to be buried in loans with terms that, for them, are not sustainable.
Sympathizing militant groups say once the old jeepney phase-out program pushes through, it will cause a big impact on them as commuters because of the fear that fares will increase.
A member of Kilos ng Manggagawa, asked, in Filipino: “The modern air conditioned jeepney may look fine and dandy, but when you are on your way to the market, would you really have the need for an air-conditioned ride?”
There were reports that some protesters were coercing other jeepney drivers to go along with the strike, a matter the authorities from the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) looked into.
LTFRB’s board member and spokesperson Atty Aileen Lizada “Hindi ho dapat pwersahan at tinatakot (There should be no using threats or forcibly persuading others to join the strike).”
Three Fridays ago, LTFRB filed a complaint against San Mateo, who is allegedly neither a jeepney driver nor operator, for violation of the public service law for a similar protest action.
In Baguio City and Benguet province, PISTON Metro Baguio President Carlito Wayas said: “Ulitek manen diay imbagak idi, imbes a tulongan dakami ti gobyerno, kasla kayat na met a patayen dakami a babassit a jeepney operators ken draybers babaen iti ipilpilit da a panangiserrek ti maysa nga programa nu sadino ket ti mapaboran ket dagiti babaknang ken kapitalista (I repeat what I have said before, the government, instead of helping, seems to want to kill us small jeepney operators and drivers by insisting on a program that favors the rich and the capitalists).”
More than 900 drivers, operators and including their families, together with students from various universities in Baguio City and La Trinidad, and other like-minded sectors, marched down along Session Road to the People’s Park where they held a program in pouring rain.
In Davao City, an estimated 80 percent of the jeepney drivers joined the strike, the impact on the riding public was offset somewhat by the availability of free rides via 3o buses arranged by the local government.
In nearby Tagum City, an estimated two-thirds of the drivers joined the strike.
The Department of Transportation (DOTr) and LTFRB, in a statement, appealed “for patience and understanding” to those who may be affected by the two-day transport strike slated October 16-17.
“The DOTr would also like to express its utmost dismay over PISTON’s refusal to discuss with government their issues on the PUV Modernization Program (PUVMP), and its consistent appeal to public sentiment through false propaganda and misinformation.
“A close survey of organizations backing PISTON would reveal that these are mostly non drivers and/or non operators of public utility vehicles, as shown by PISTON’s open alliance with the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU). Hence, we question PISTON’s true motives in staging these protests and demonstrations.
“How can they hold a legitimate protest when in fact, the majority of the protesters do not represent the public transport sector? In PISTON’s 36 years of existence, when did they ever agree or give their support to a proposed reform on our public transportation sector?
“These further leave us these questions: Do they [PISTON] really have the higher interest of the riding public and the best interest of jeepney drivers and operators if they oppose each and every program aimed at improving public transportation? Or is PISTON disagreeing just for the sake of disagreement, in order to justify its existence as a militant and leftist group?”
“On the issue of purported lack of consultation, nothing can be farther from the truth. The DOTr and the LTFRB have conducted numerous consultations and dialogues with various stakeholders, such as public utility vehicle (PUV) operators and drivers across the country, as well as with organized transport groups and local government units.”
It was only when the Modernization Program had taken shape and gained support from transport groups and cooperatives nationwide that PISTON disengaged with the government and refused to dialogue, said DOTr and LTFRB. “Nonetheless, consultations with LGUs for their local transport route plans, as well as with organized transport groups and various transport cooperatives across the country, are still being conducted until present.”
On the issue that the Modernization Program is anti-poor because of the alleged high cost of new jeepney units, “PISTON is clearly misinformed. A major component is the financial scheme available to PUJ operators and drivers who wish to avail of new units through financing of government financial institutions, Development Bank of the Philippines and Land Bank of the Philippines.
“The financing package for acquisition of new units endorsed by the Department of Finance (DOF) is very generous – as low as 5% equity, 6% interest rate and a repayment period as long as 7 years.
“On top of this, government will offer as high as PhP80,000 subsidy per unit to cover the equity payment. Moreover, because of zero or low maintenance cost of new units in the first 3 years, savings thereon will be translated to income, with an increased confidence and capability to meet loan obligations. All business models based on actual studies ensure profitability for the drivers/operators, even if they avail of the financial loan package offered by government financial institutions.”
DOTr and LTFRB said: “The PUV Modernization program is NOT about any form of phase out. It is about MODERNIZING our fleets towards a more efficient, safe, comfortable, PWD-friendly and environmentally-sensitive public commuting.
“Pollution caused by antiquated PUJs has not only put a heavy toll on the environment, but has already become a serious public health issue. Also, the alarming statistics of deaths and road crashes brought by dilapidated jeepneys and buses, obsolete systems and ill-practices has to be stopped.
“Indeed, modernization of the country’s public transport system is long overdue. Several attempts to modernize in the past have been thwarted due to similar transport strikes, protests and harassment. The result of which is what we have now – an outdated public transport system continuously endangering the environment and the safety of our people. We agree that the PUVMP may be bold and ambitious, but, when public good is at stake, the Duterte administration does not stop at anything.”
The government noted that, “with the exception of PISTON, the PUVMP has gained the overwhelming support of different public transport groups. Among them are the Federation of Jeepney Operators and Drivers Association of the Philippines (FEJODAP), Alliance of Concerned Transport Organizations (ACTO), Pangkalahatang Sanggunian Manila and Suburb Drivers Association Nationwide Inc., (PASANG MASDA), Land Transportation Organization of the Philippines (LTOP), Alliance of Transport Operators and Drivers Association of the Philippines (ALTODAP), Stop and Go Coalition, and an overwhelmingly majority of provincial transport cooperatives all over the country. This shows that should reason and rational minds prevail, discussions between the government and public transport groups on the improvement of our public transport system can be fruitful and productive.”
Meanwhile, a compilation of regional police monitoring reports as of mid afternoon Monday follows below:
Along Mc Arthur Highway, Malanday, Valenzuela (15)
Monumento Rotonda (15)
Estimated Crowd: A total of 30 drivers / Rallyists
along E Rodriguez Blvd. corner Araneta ave (20)
Quirino Highway Lagro (16)
Quirino Hi-way, Sarmiento, Brgy. Nova Proper, QC (30)
Welcome Rotonda (20)
Estimated Crowd: 86 strikers
Location: Zapote Kalayaan Brgy. Olympia Makati City
Estimated Crowd: 20 strikers
Anda Circle, Intramuros, Manila (20)
Rizal Ave. Cor Bulacan St. Sta. Cruz, Manila (15)
Estimated Crowd: 35 strikers
Dolores Intersection, San Fernando Pampanga (120)
Brgy. Tuyo, Balanga, Bataan (40)
Estimated Crowd: 160 drivers
Brgy Salasad. Sta Cruz, Laguna (20)
in front of Ambulong Elem School, Tanauan City (100)
Lianas Mall Brgy Poblacion 4, Sto Tomas Batangas (60)
Crossing Brgy. Real Calamba City, Laguna (40)
in front of Jollibee Molino, located at Molino 3, Bacoor City, Cavite (20)
Corner Eldanda along Lopez Avenue Brgy. Batong Malake, Los Baños, Laguna. (20)
Central Mall, Olivares National Highway, Brgy San Vicente, Binan, Laguna. (40)
Estimated Crowd: 300 Strikers
Location: in front of Petron Gasoline Station, Brgy. Sagpon, Daraga, Albay
Estimated Crowd: 20 drivers
Location: in front of Petron Gasoline Station, Brgy. Sagpon, Daraga, Albay
Estimated Crowd: 100 Rallyist
Location: in front of Gaisano Metro Colon, Cebu City.
Estimated Crowd: 80 Strikers
Cagayan de Oro City (120)
Rally at near oval ground, Poblacion, Valencia City, Bukidnon (20)
Estimated Crowd: 140 drivers
San Nicolas St., Brgy. Washington, Surigao City, Surigao del Norte (30)
Brgy. Baan, Butuan City (10)
Estimated Crowd: 40 drivers
A total of MOL 1,011 drivers/Rallyist were monitored nationwide, thee police report indicated.