MANILA — The Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operators Nationwide (PISTON) is seeking for a dialogue with President Rodrigo Duterte amid concerns that the implementation of the Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP) might lead to the displacement of jobs of jeepney drivers and operators.
The transport group is asking the government to put on hold the implementation of the PUVMP to pave way for a review of its guidelines.
“We are asking specifically for a framework that will enable a nationalized, efficient and affordable public transportation system in the country. The government should not modernize public transport in favor of large companies and monopolies as this would lead to the disenfranchisement of jeepney operators and drivers,” PISTON national president George San Mateo said in a television interview.
While it welcomes the vision of the government for an environmentally sustainable mode of transport to commuters, PISTON said their members do not have the capability to acquire new units to comply with the PUVMP.
“Who does not want to have modern and environment friendly jeepneys? The problem is it is very costly and you need to have a minimum of 10 units to be granted a franchise. Small operators do not have the capability to maintain that,” San Mateo said.
The transport group said it would continue to hold its protest actions until the President and the Department of Transportation (DOTr) decide to have a dialogue with them.
For her part, Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) member and spokesperson Aileen Lizada said several major transport groups are supporting the PUVMP and not joining PISTON’s transport strike today and Tuesday.
“The transport groups understand the vision of the modernization program. We would also like to take note that most of those who are participating in the strike are from the labor sector and are not drivers and operators,” Lizada said.
The Federation of Jeepney Operators and Drivers Association of the Philippines (FEJODAP), Alliance of Concerned Transport Organizations (ACTO), Pangkalahatang Sanggunian Manila and Suburb Drivers Association Nationwide Inc. (PASANG MASDA), Land Transportation Organization of the Philippines (LTOP), Alliance of Transport Operators and Drivers Association of the Philippines (ALTODAP), and Stop and Go Coalition have earlier stated that they will not join the two-day transport strike.
The LTFRB official also disclosed that they recently filed charges against Mateo for violating Commonwealth Act No. 146 known as the Public Service Act before the Quezon City Prosecutor’s Office.
The PISTON leader allegedly encouraged jeepney operators not to provide rides to commuters in defiance of the government during its transport strike last February, according to Lizada.
The DOTr and LTFRB issued a statement Sunday asking for support of the PUVMP as they reiterated that the program aims to ensure an efficient, safe, comfortable, PWD friendly and environmentally sustainable mode of transportation to commuters.
They called on PISTON to have a discussion with them on the benefits of the modernization program.
Under the PUV Modernization Program, jeepney units that are 15 years old will be replaced with Euro 4 engines or electrically-powered engines with solar panels for roofs. These will also be equipped with closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras, a GPS navigation system, an Automatic Fare Collection System (AFCS), speed limiters, dashboard cameras, and Wi-Fi.