lodi291 review By Jomel R. Paguian
WHILE the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) downplayed Monday’s beginning of a three-day transport strike against the phaseout of jeepneys as nothing more than the “normal rush hour” foot traffic situation, public utility vehicle (PUV) drivers and commuters believe it made significant impact.
“I can confidently say that the public transport was not paralyzed [by the strike] this morning,” MMDA Acting Chairman Romando S. Artes told a press briefing, as collated data with the Philippine National Police (PNP) recorded 550 protesters at 12 rally sites throughout the National Capital Region (NCR).
Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operators Nationwide (PISTON) national president Mody T. Floranda whose group spearheaded the strike, claimed that major roads in NCR were paralyzed because 90%-95% of jeepney drivers and operators joined their protest.
“They are downplaying the strength of the movement. The military trucks for free rides show that the transport sector’s strike is positive and strong,” Mr. Floranda, speaking in Filipino, said in an interview.
Speaking on behalf of the commuters, labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) secretary general Jerome Adonis said the authorities just wanted to “mellow down” the impact of the strike.
“If they think that [the public transport] is normal, on the part of commuters and workers, that’s not true,” he said in Filipino.
Mr. Artes stood by his assessment, saying the MMDA had to deploy only 66 of its 686 vehicles on standby to give free rides to commuters on Monday morning, claiming fewer passengers were stranded than they expected.
Joining the media briefing, Vice President Sara Z. Duterte-Carpo said her office was eyeing the possible deployment of its buses to provide free rides amid during the three-day transport strike.
At the same time, she said: “Our call is to continue the dialogue. Whatever their grievances, their issues, they should bring them to the table in talks with lodi291 casino the government.”
PISTON is waging a three-day strike to call for the suspension of the government’s Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP), which effectively phases out traditional jeepneys in favor of new generation transport vehicles by the end of the year.
In addition, The PUVMP requires drivers and operators to form corporations and cooperatives to get new transport franchises. PISTON believes that “franchise consolidation is a phaseout.”
Despite the call, the Vice President reiterated the recorded 70% compliance rate of PUV drivers with the proposed modernization plan.
In response, Mr. Floranda said that the almost 129,000 drivers and operators who filed their applications for the modernization program were forced, as non-compliance comes at the cost of their franchise.
“They were afraid that if you don’t comply, you won’t be able to renew your franchise, you won’t be able to register,” he said.
Mr. Adonis added that those who signed up to enter cooperatives under the PUVMP are suffering to pay added fees.
“Even those who consolidated into cooperatives are also struggling to make their payments. Many of them are at a loss now,” he said.
Land Transportation, Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) Chairperson Teofilo E. Guadiz III promised to respect the protesters’ rights and would not void franchises of drivers on strike, contrary to what he said last week.
“We can suspend their franchise, but as a gesture of good faith because we encourage them to modernize, we can accommodate what they are doing,” Mr. Guadiz, speaking in mixed English and Filipino said in the press briefing. “As long as they do not cause trouble, we will respect their freedom of expression.”
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