MANILA –Monday’s transport strike by jeepney operators and drivers against the jeepney modernization program only caused minimal effect in Metro Manila and other parts of the country.
Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) board member and spokesperson Atty. Aileen Lizada said the protest activity which was organized by PISTON, Stop and Go Coalition and No to Jeepney Phaseout Coalition only drew fewer participants compared to the strike held last February 6, 2016 as most jeepney transport groups support the modernization program for public utility jeepneys (PUJs).
“The effect of the transport strike has been nil. We also got in touch with our regional franchise officers and they stated that this is not a nationwide strike. We were able to give the stranded passengers the necessary assistance,” Lizada said in an interview with reporters
Lizada said a total of 5,840 passengers were assisted equivalent to 292 jeepney trips by the Joint Quick Response Team (JQRT) composed of the Department of Transportation (DOTr), LTFRB, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Philippine National Police (PNP), Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), Highway Patrol Group (HPG), Office for Transportation Security (OTS), Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), and the Department of Health (DOH).
Furthermore, the LTFRB was able to deploy 160 private buses and public vehicles for 48 trips in six staging areas across the metropolis.
Around 350 personnel were assigned to the composite group of PNP, AFP, MMDA, DPWH, PCG, DOTr, LTFRB, OTS, BFP and DOH while 2,500 are on standby from PNP, AFP and the PCG.
The agency has received reports of harassment/threatening of PUJs that did not participate in the strike in Sta. Ana Faura, Taft Pedro Gil, Caltex New Panaderos, Petron Philcoa, Sarmiento Street Novaliches, Ligaya Marcos Highway, JP Rizal Extension Makati.
Throwing of spikes was also reported in Guadalupe Kalayaan Gate 1.
Lizada disclosed that the LTFRB will hold hearings on March 8 for those involved in the Feb. 6 transport strike, and March 9 for those who participated in today’s strike to reply to a show cause order that will be filed against the operators and drivers to explain why their franchises should not be cancelled.
She reiterated that public utility vehicles (PUVs) shall not resort to cessation of service as a sign or demonstration of protest against any government decision or action.
The LTFRB spokesperson also slammed those involved in the transport strike for spreading misinformation as she denied that the government will be phasing out PUJs.
“There was no draft order in the DOTr on phasing out jeepneys. The transport groups had misinformed drivers and operators with their bogus claims,” Lizada said.
She debunked reports that jeepney operators would have to pay PHP 7 million to get a new franchise and that they must have 20 units by 2018 and increase the fleet to 40 units in 2019.
She said the modernization program seeks to make PUJs environment friendly and will have a three year transition period.
The initiative aims to gradually convert old jeepneys plying along the roads to electronic jeepneys which will utilize a low carbon and low emission vehicle technology.
Standards on carbon emission and fleet management and maintenance would also be imposed to ensure passenger safety, and improve ambient air quality.
The DOTr will be crafting specifications on the PUJ modernization program.
The LTFRB has conducted its third meeting with a technical working group consisting of the DOTr, Department of Budget and Management (DBM), National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), Department of Finance (DOF), Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) for the implementation of a financial package for those affected by the program.
The government is considering buying jeepneys that will be sold by the operators. The proceeds of the sale will be utilized as equity or downpayment on loans to be provided by banks and other financial institutions.
The DOF is also considering the proposal of jeepney group Pasang Masda that the Pantawid Pasada or fuel subsidy cards for public transport operators and drivers be utilized as a seed fund to facilitate access on loans from banks and other financial institutions.
The government is also open for the establishment of jeepney cooperatives for easier access to loans.
Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) has conducted its ocular inspections on areas where there were reports of disruption and conducted dialogues with several groups who joined the strike.
MMDA General Manager Thomas Orbos said the transport groups vowed not to join future strikes and participate in dialogue with government.
“In general, the strike failed despite the harassment, intimidation and force utilized by the hardliners against those who just wanted to earn their living driving their jeeps. It failed because it was based on deception by their leaders,” Orbos said in a text message to reporters.