MANILA, Philippines — The leader of the transport group that staged last week’s two-day strike accused the government of pushing a jeepney “marketing,” not modernization, program.
Guesting at Annabel’s Forum, George San Mateo, president of the Pinag-Isang Samahan ng Tsuper at Operators Nationwide or PISTON, also said President Rodrigo Duterte’s reaction to their protest had cost him many supporters among jeepney drivers.
Transportation Secretary Arturo Tugade, San Mateo claimed, “has no modernization program. What they have right now is a marketing program para sa pagbebenta ng mga sasakyan, nilalako nila (to sell the vehicles they are peddling) … Isuzu, Hyundai, Toyota.”
However, he said, “wala silang (they have no) study” on the impact of the modernization program on commuters as well as jeepney drivers and operators who face dislocation.
Not only will the cheapest of the vehicles the government intends to replace current jeepney models with cost around P1.4 million, or in the range of some SUVs, San Mateo said the “omnibus franchising guidelines” will eliminate single unit operators by requiring a minimum of 10 units per franchise, effectively making public transport exclusive to wealthy operators.
San Mateo also accused the government of attempting to force implementation of the modernization program by piloting it despite the lack of clear guidelines.
Appearing at the same forum, Caloocan Representative Edgar Erice said there appeared to be no coordination between government agencies in the implementation of the modernization program.
While saying there is essentially nothing wrong with piloting the program, “ang nangyayari binebenta na ang produkto wala pa di pa na-develop ang produkto (what’s happening is the product is being sold before it can be developed).”
He suggested government agencies get together and craft a “single plan.”
The Piston president also said Duterte angered many erstwhile supporters among the jeepney drivers by accusing their group of being a “legal front” of the Communist Party of the Philippines and of involvement in a supposed conspiracy to destabilize the government.
“The president just lost a major base of supporters because of that statement,” San Mateo said. “Hindi naman sya ang tinitira (He was not a target). (It was) only about (the) … modernization program ni (of) Tugade, tapos hinaluan pa ng president ng politika, tapos sinabihan pa kami na front daw kami ng (and then he had to throw in politics, and he accused us of being a front of the) CPP.”
“Sa amin sa Marikina, lahat ng may sticker na ka-DDS (Diehard Duterte Supporter) pinagtatanggal lahat ang sticker (In Marikina, all those who had DDS stickers took these off),” he said.
San Mateo also blamed Duterte of pushing them into mounting the strike, noting that as early as July 18, they had conveyed their request to dialogue with him on the modernization program and present their counter-proposal.
“Sagot ni president, saka na daw mag-usap, mag-strike daw muna kami, kahit hanggang three months month pa raw, bibigyan pa daw kami ng presidente ng permit … then after that saka mag-usap (The president’s replay was we could take later, we should strike fist, even for three months, he would even give us a permit … and then we could talk),” he said.