DOTr hits Piston ‘propaganda’ on modernization program

Aika Rey
DOTr hits Piston ‘propaganda’ on modernization program
The Department of Transportation questions the motives behind transport strikes, and also denies that the PUV modernization program is 'anti-poor'

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Transportation (DOTr) questioned the “true motives” of transport group Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (Piston) for staging transport strikes.

In a joint statement with the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) released late Sunday evening, October 15, the DOTr accused Piston of “false propaganda and misinformation.”

“The DOTr would also like to express its utmost dismay over Piston’s refusal to discuss with government their issues on the PUV (public utility vehicle) modernization program, and its consistent appeal to public sentiment through false propaganda and misinformation,” the transportation department said.

The DOTr said Piston is claiming there were no consultations on the government’s Omnibus Franchising Guidelines and that the PUV modernization program is “anti-poor.”

Piston is set to stage a two-day transport strike from Monday to Tuesday, October 16 to 17 – prompting the government to cancel classes at all levels in public and private schools, as well as government work on Monday.

Lack of consultation?

The DOTr refuted Piston’s claims that stakeholders were not consulted prior to the issuance of Department Order No. 2017-011 or the Omnibus Franchising Guidelines.

The transportation department said some members of Piston were present during the earlier talks.

“On the issue of purported lack of consultation, nothing can be farther from the truth… These consultations were organized before, during, and even after DO ‎2017-011 was signed. In fact, in some of the initial regional consultations, Piston members were present and participated in the discussions,” the DOTr said.

“It was only when the PUV [modernization program] had already taken shape and gained support from transport groups and cooperatives nationwide that Piston disengaged with the government and refused to dialogue,” the DOTr added.

‘Piston misinformed’

The DOTr said the transport group is “clearly misinformed” by claiming that the modernization program is “anti-poor.”

A major component of the program, the transportation department pointed out, is the financial loan scheme available to jeepney drivers and operators. (READ: Is the PUV modernization program ‘anti-poor?’)

“The financing package for acquisition of new units endorsed by the Department of Finance (DOF) is very generous – as low as 5% equity, 6% interest rate, and a repayment period as long as 7 years. On top of this, government will offer as high as P80,000 subsidy per unit to cover the equity payment,” the DOTr said.

In a statement released by Piston last Wednesday, October 11, the group claimed that jeepney drivers and operators will have to pay as much as P27,000 monthly for the P1.5-million new jeepney model.

In an earlier report by Rappler, Finance Undersecretary Karl Chua explained that  data from the proposed automated fare collection system should help dictate how much banks will charge the drivers.

According to the modernization program, jeepney drivers should receive standard salaries as opposed to the widely practiced boundary system.

All business models based on actual studies ensure profitability [for] the drivers or operators, even if they avail of the financial loan package offered by government financial institutions,” the DOTr said.

Questionable motives?

According to the DOTr, groups that back Piston are mostly non-drivers and non-operators, citing the transport group’s alliance with the leftist Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU).

The DOTr is questioning the legitimacy of protests as “majority of the protesters do not represent the public transport sector.” (READ: Yes, Pedro, we need to modernize the jeepney)

“Do they really have the higher interest of the riding public and the best interest of jeepney drivers and operators if they oppose each and every program aimed at improving public transportation? Or is Piston disagreeing just for the sake of disagreement, in order to justify its existence as a militant and leftist group?” the DOTr said.

The transport strike from Monday to Tuesday is the 3rd one organized by Piston this year.

The DOTr called on Piston to further discuss the modernization program with authorities.

“We hope reason will prevail upon the leadership of Piston and they finally open their doors to discussion for them to truly understand and appreciate the PUV [modernization program],” the DOTr said. – Rappler.com

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Aika Rey

Aika Rey is a business reporter for Rappler. She covered the Senate of the Philippines before fully diving into numbers and companies. Got tips? Find her on Twitter at @reyaika or shoot her an email at aika.rey@rappler.com.