WATCH: Abala ba ang transport strike?
MANILA, Philippines – For some, their commute time took longer than usual on Monday and Tuesday, October 16 and 17.
It came as a surprise to some commuters who were not aware of the two-day nationwide transport strike staged by the Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (Piston).
Many from the riding public were frustrated.
Arlene Suan, 46, was already waiting for more than 30 minutes along Monumento for her jeepney ride to Navotas. She did not know a strike was happening.
"Abala po yun sa mga pumapasok. Bakit sila nagtitigil-pasada? Nahihirapan ang commuters na pumasok sa trabaho na wala't kulang ang masasakyan," she told Rappler.
(The strike was such an inconvenience to the public. Why do they have to stage a strike? Commuters have difficulty going to work because of lack of transport.)
Meanwhile, Elsa Padilla, 21, came all the way from Pandi town in Bulacan with her family, only to spend hours waiting along Monumento for a jeepney going to Malabon.
"Sobrang hirap galing pa kami ng Pandi, Bulacan, maulan, ta's walang jeep ngayon. Ta's may dala pa kaming bata (at) gamit," said Padilla, whose 3-year-old child was clinging to her.
(It's really hard to get a ride. We came from Pandi, Bulacan. It's been raining and there were no jeeps. I have with me my child and baggages.)
She said they had been scouting the area for alternative modes of transport but to no avail.
"Ang hirap makipagpatintero sa mga sasakyan. Hahabol ka lang para makasakay. (It's really hard to play Patintero with vehicles. You keep chasing them to get a ride.)," she said.
Padilla had been traveling for almost 4 hours when it usually took about 3 hours to get to their destination.
Protesting against the PUV modernization program, Piston said parts of Luzon saw "100%" participation in the nationwide transport strike on Monday.
They argue that the modernization plan – which mandates the replacement of jeepneys aged 15 years and older – would lead to loss of jobs.
In anticipation of the possible impact of the strike, the government prepared special vehicles to prevent commuters from being stranded.
Along Monumento, gateway to 4 cities in the capital region, vehicles were deployed by the Metropolitan Development Authority (MMDA), the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), the Land Transportation Office, and the Caloocan City government to aid the riding public.
The usual busy streets of Samson Road in Caloocan City were clear of jeepneys on Monday. According to Piston, Monumento was among the areas in where jeepney routes were "100% paralyzed." (IN PHOTOS: Paralyzed)
"Sana hindi na lang 'yung ganito para hindi na nahihirapan 'yung mga tao lalo na 'yung uuwi (o) kung may emergency, (They shouldn't have (staged a strike) so commuters won't have to deal with the difficulty to get a ride coming home or attending to an emergency)" Padilla wished.
Despite the commuters' frustration, many took advantage of the free ride offered by the government that day.
Nelito Samuraw, a resident of Caloocan, regularly leaves his house around 7 am to go to work. He said the strike truly brought inconvenience but he's grateful the government prepared contingency plans to aid commuters like him.
"Pasalamat kami nagkaro'n ng ganito kasi mahirap eh. Walang masakyan, (We're grateful that we have (free rides) because it was difficult to get a ride.)" he told Rappler as he squeezed himself on Caloocan City government's pick-up truck that afternoon.
Lito Reyes of the Caloocan Department of Public Safety and Traffic Management said their pick-up truck goes around MC Malabon and MCU. They picked up passengers especially pregnant women, those with children, and those with special needs.
In their 3rd strike this year, Piston asked the government to junk the current version of the program and called for new talks with them.
They said that the current version was "pro-big business" and anti-poor, as the new jeepney models cost around P1.5 million each – which was too much for small drivers and operators.
"Hindi na bali magsakripisyo kami ng one day, two days kaysa mawalan kami ng karapatang mabuhay. (Sacrificing one or two days of work does not matter, rather than be deprived of the right to live.)," Piston leader George San Mateo told Rappler.
But the transportation department questioned the real motive behind their protest, accusing them of spreading false propaganda.
On Tuesday, President Rodrigo Duterte expressed his support of the program and urged jeepney operators and drivers to modernize by the end of the year. He scoffed at Piston's criticism that the program is anti-poor.
Piston threatened the government with monthly strikes if their requests for dialogue land on deaf ears. Late Tuesday afternoon, Piston confirmed that the House of Representatives will finally hear their woes.
"What's more important (is that) the strike forced Congress to call for a special hearing on (Thursday), October 19 regarding the sentiments of the strikers," San Mateo said.
As the government grants them an audience on Thursday, will they find a compromise?– with reports from LeAnne Jazul/Rappler.com