Transport strike for Dec. 4-5 called off to give way to Senate probe

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A jeepney traverses Metro Manila's congested road network. The DOTr is pushing a massive modernization program for public utility vehicles, but transport groups led by PISTON say the plan will bankrupt thousands of small operators and render jeepney drivers jobless. They staged a nationwide strike in October, but deferred the latest strike scheduled Dec.4-5, to give way to a Senate hearing. PNA FILE PHOTO

MANILA – (UPDATE 2:20PM) The transport strike called by an alliance led by PISTON for Monday and Tuesday (Dec. 4-5, 2017) has been called off, in deference to a Senate committee hearing on the controversial PUV modernization program that activists deem a disguise for a wholesale jeepney phaseout.

The chief Senate prober for the modernization blueprint, Sen. Grace Poe, urged, however, Transportation Secretary Art Tugade to attend the Dec.7 hearing.

PISTON president George San Mateo announced the deferment of the planned strike in a press conference in Quezon City. In a press statement sent to media outlets, San Mateo said PISTON and the No to Jeepney Phaseout Coalition will mount, in lieu of the transport strike,a weeklong protest against the “massacre of the livelihood” of drivers and small operators and the harassment by the Duterte administration os those opposing the jeepney phaseout.

The leaders said the deferment is part of their commitment to allow for an orderly hearing by the Public Services committee of Sen. Grace Poe whom PISTON thanked for her timely and calm intervention.

Senator Poe welcomed the announcement, but strongly urged Tugade, who was absent from the previous Senate hearing, to attend the Dec. 7 hearing and enlighten everyone on the details of the modernization plan.

Poe issued this statement: “We welcome the decision of Piston and No to Jeepney Phaseout Coalition to heed our appeal and call off their nationwide transport strike. Issues can be better discussed and resolved when sobriety and judiciousness are exercised, in pursuit of the highest public good.”

She said the hearing she called will “discuss with all stakeholders issues confronting the transport sector, including the planned jeepney modernization program with the view of addressing their concerns.”

Poe stressed; “We shall be guided by reason, responsibility and public welfare.”

PROTESTS, MEANTIME

A protest caravan will be staged in lieu of the Dec 4-5 strike.

Officials of the No to Jeepney Phaseout Coalition said that mass actions are also planned on Dec. 10, after the Senate hearings. Dec. 10 is International Human Rights Day, and San Mateo explained the transport sector has its own grievance related to this, citing the criminal case filed against him by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) in connection with a previous strike.

A major transport strike to protest the modernization plan is also being planned by the groups in January 2018, an earlier DZBB report said.

Meanwhile, PISTON prodded the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to reveal information on their urgent queries on how exactly the modernization will be carried out, amid persistent warnings by some quarters that the blueprint will deprive tens of thousands of drivers and operators of their existing livelihood and force them to go into debt to pay for the new, modernized PUV models touted by DOTr as fueled by green energy.