MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (Piston) called on the government Monday, October 16, to junk the current version of the public utility vehicle (PUV) modernization program.
According to Piston president George San Mateo, there is a need to have a new dialogue on the program.
“Ang gusto nating gawin, i-junk ang kasulukuyang version at magkaroon ng panibagong pag-uusap…Kasama ang mga pasahero talaga, mga experts,” said San Mateo.
(What we want to do is to junk the current version (of the program) and to start new dialogues…with the commuting public and experts.)
Piston staged a two-day nationwide strike from Monday to Tuesday, October 16 to 17, in protest of the PUV modernization program which mandates the replacement of jeepneys aged 15 years or older. (READ: Buses, jeepneys in the Philippines to be modernized by 2020)
San Mateo said they are fighting for drivers’ and operators’ livelihood, as the Department of Transportation (DOTr) questioned their “true motives” in staging the strike.
Leftist groups argue that the current version of the modernization plan would lead to loss of jobs.
“Ang motibo natin ay ipagtanggol ang kabuhayan. Para sa amin, hindi na bali magsakripisyo kami ng one day, two days kaysa mawalan kami ng karapatang mabuhay,” he said. (READ: Is the PUV modernization program ‘anti-poor?’)
(Our motive is to save livelihood. For us, sacrificing one or two days of work does not matter, rather than be deprived of the right to live.)
‘We support modernization’
Piston refuted claims that they are against modernization of public utility vehicles (PUV). San Mateo explained that they are not in favor of the “pro-business scheme” behind the plan.
“Nagsagawa tayo ng strike hindi para kontrahin ang konsepto ng modernisasyon ngunit para tutulan ‘yung framework na ipapatupad na pro-business tapos nag-aalis ng kabuhayan sa maliliit na operator,” said San Mateo. (READ: Yes, Pedro, we need to modernize the jeepney)
(We are staging a strike not to block the concept of modernization but to protest against the framework that implements pro-business (schemes) and removes the livelihood of small operators.)
San Mateo said that the government should work on nationalizing mass transport instead to make it more efficient and affordable. (READ: EXPLAINER: What’s the reason for the 2-day transport strike?)
In a statement on Monday, the DOTr refuted the leftist group’s claim that only corporations will benefit from the modernization program.
According to the transport department, local manufacturers will design and produce the units. Drivers and operators will earn more with the proposed program due to fuel savings, expanded seating capacity from 16 persons to 22, and low maintenance cost of the unit, they said.
The DOTr also denied jeepney phase out claimed by Piston.
“Walang phase out. Mananatili ang jeepney sa kalsada. Pero sa pagkakataong ito, bago at modern na. (Jeepneys will not be phased out. (It) will remain on the streets but this time, it will be new and modern.),” the DOTr said.
Commuters to pay higher fare
According to the leftist group, commuters will bear the brunt of the costs of the program.
“Pinaglalaban namin ang karapatan ng mga commuter na sana hindi ipasa sa kanila ang malaking cost ng negosyong-modernization program… Makikita na P20 ang minimum fare diyan (mula sa P8),” said San Mateo.
(We are fighting for the rights of the commuting public that hopefully, the high cost of the profit-oriented modernization program will not be shouldered by the commuters. We see that P20 will be the minimum fare from P8.)
“Sana maunawaan ang ating sinagawa. Pinaglalaban natin ang ating hanapbuhay. (I hope the (public) understands our actions. We are fighting for our livelihood.),” he added.
On Monday, Land Transportation and Franchising Regulatory Board (LTFRB) chairman Martin Delgra III gave assurances that jeepney minimum fare will not reach P20.
In a report by GMA News, Delgra said that minimum fare will not reach even P15 based on their studies. “It’s based on the current fare, if there will be a fare hike – we’re not even thinking of that for now – but it will be very small,” he said in a mix of English and Filipino.
The two-day transport strike is the 3rd organized by Piston this year, prompting Malacañang to cancel classes at all levels in public and private schools nationwide, as well as government work on Monday.
According to the leftist group, parts of Luzon saw “100%” participation in the nationwide transport strike.
In Cebu, however, the protest failed to cripple the province’s transport system on Monday. (READ: What is happening outside Metro Manila during the nationwide transport strike)
In anticipation of the strike, government prepared contingency plans to prevent commuters from being stranded.– Rappler.com