public transportation

Jeepney drivers hold another transport strike as Marcos fails to act on campaign promise

Ralf Rivas

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Jeepney drivers hold another transport strike as Marcos fails to act on campaign promise

STRIKE. Leaders of transport group PISTON pose as they announce a 3-day transport strike starting November 20, 2023.

PISTON

(3rd UPDATE) Jeepney drivers launch another transport strike against government's deadline for a financially unsustainable modernization program

MANILA, Philippines – Jeepney drivers under the Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (PISTON) kicked off another transport strike on Monday, November 20, to protest the government’s December 31 deadline for them consolidate into cooperatives under the Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP).

PISTON’s three-day transport strike is a clear indication that many jeepney drivers and operators are against consolidation, as less than 60% of traditional jeepneys have joined the PUVMP.

According to government data, only 95,869 out of 170,086 jeepney units nationwide – or 56.37% – have consolidated as of October 31, 2023 since it was strongly pushed by then-President Rodrigo Duterte in 2017 or six years ago.

The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) insists that the program does not intend to phase out the iconic jeepney, but aims to, at minimum, upgrade its parts to make it environment-friendly. But PISTON isn’t convinced.

“‘Wag na nila lituhin ang taumbayan. Ang franchise consolidation ay phaseout. Ang franchise consolidation ay pagbawi at pagmasaker sa mga indibidwal na prangkisa at pagpasa nito sa mga malalaking transport corporation na sila lang may kapasidad na magbayad at sumunod sa mga pakana ng gubyerno,” said PISTON national president Mody Floranda.

(Do not deceive the public. Franchise consolidation is phaseout. Franchise consolidation is the revocation and massacre of individual franchises, transferring them to large transport corporations that are the only ones capable of paying and complying with the government’s schemes.)

LTFRB Chairman Teofilo Guadiz said on Monday that, as in previous transport strikes, many jeepney drivers were plying their routes, despite PISTON’s call for a strike. He did not rule out the possibility that some jeepney drivers would join the strike after earning money from rush-hour trips.

Here are the routes that may be affected by Monday’s strike:

  • Novaliches-Malinta along Gen. Luis
  • Shelter Ville-Novaliches
  • Bagumbong-Novaliches
  • Deparo-Novaliches
  • Paco-Sta. Mesa
  • Monumento Area
  • Catmon
  • Alabang Area, Baclaran
  • A. Francisco St.- San Andres Bukid
  • NIA-NPC to Mindanao Ave.

The LTFRB assured the public that it was “fully prepared” for the strike and was offering free rides during the 3-day strike.

The LTFRB intends to deploy about 250 vehicles across Metro Manila to serve 10,000 passengers.

This is now the fourth major transport strike this year, with the earlier three being led by transport group Manibela. Manibela President Mar Valbuena said his group, which initially opted not to join Monday’s strike, had sent “reinforcements” to PISTON in Monumento, Caloocan, as well as in the cities of Manila and Marikina.

Tense negotiations

Guadiz and PISTON held a dialogue on Monday afternoon to discuss the transport group’s demands.

Floranda said the “forced consolidation” endangers the jobs of many drivers, especially as the December 31 deadline nears and most cannot comply with the requirements.

The PISTON chief emphasized that they do not oppose modernization or forming cooperatives. They, however, don’t want big businesses taking over their vehicles and franchises and want assurances from the LTFRB for this not to happen.

Guadiz, however, said drivers need not comply immediately.

“Sa ngayon po, ang mungkahi ko po, hindi kailangan tapusin ang proseso ng consolidation. I-file mo lang ‘yung intention mo, bibigyan ka namin ng six months to one year,” Guadiz said.

(My proposal is they need not finish the consolidation process immediately. You just need to file your intent and we will give you six months to one year to comply)

Guadiz appealed to the transport group to shorten their three-day strike.

In a statement hours after the dialogue, PISTON said it will continue with its strike this week.  

“Lahat pag-aaralan.’ Pinasimple na natin ang ating demands — tanggalin ang deadline, tanggalin ang consolidation, ibasura ang phaseout. Ang sagot ng LTFRB, puro ‘pag-aaralan,’ puro paasa. Tuloy ang welga, tuloy ang laban,” the group said.  

(It’s all study. We have simplified our demands: remove the deadline, remove consolidation, junk the phaseout. The response of LTFRB is it will study, it’s all false hopes. The strike continues, the fight continues.) 

In a DZBB interview, Police Lieutenant Colonel Eunice Salas, spokesperson of the National Capital Region Police Office, said the transport strike, in general, failed to paralyze Metro Manila’s transport system.

But in the same interview, Salas said certain areas in all cities “felt” the impact of the strike due to the lack of jeepneys.

Areas in Quezon City, particularly Novaliches, Loyola Heights, and UP Diliman were the most affected by the strike, according to Salas. Commuters in certain areas in Manila, Pasay City, Parañaque City, and Marikina City also found it difficult to get to their destinations.

The big picture

During the campaign period in 2022, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. promised jeepney groups that he would address this pain point by prioritizing a bill setting a public transport consumers tax to fund the program. So far, this has not been fulfilled.

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According to data from the Department of Energy and LTFRB, there are over 9 million registered vehicles in the Philippines. Of the total, jeepneys comprise only over 250,000. Of the total jeepneys, around a quarter operate in Metro Manila.

While jeepneys play an important role in providing services in the country, studies have found that diesel-powered jeepneys contribute 15% of the total particulate matter emissions in Metro Manila.

The Center for Energy, Ecology and Development (CEED) earlier argued that air pollution reduction efforts “would be negligible if modernization efforts focused on jeepneys compared to private vehicles.”

PISTON and Manibela are also campaigning against the high cost of shifting to modern jeepneys and buses.

A traditional jeepney costs around P150,000 to P250,000. A modern e-jeepney would force drivers and operators to cough up as much as P2.8 million, a 1,766.7% increase in cost.

The LTFRB said that a subsidy of P160,000 will be provided, but this is only 5.7% of the total cost of the modern jeepney.

The government has been pushing for similar modernization programs since 2007, but these have failed primarily due to financing issues. – Rappler.com

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Ralf Rivas

A sociologist by heart, a journalist by profession. Ralf is Rappler's business reporter, covering macroeconomy, government finance, companies, and agriculture.