Transport strikers picket LTFRB; think tank warns vs big fare hike

Transport strikers picket LTFRB; think tank warns vs big fare hike

By Jomel R. Paguian and Ashley Erika O. Jose,Reporter

STRIKING jeepney drivers and operators set up their protest camp directly outside the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) office in Quezon City on Thursday in a bid to compel the government to abandon its impending modernization program.

The Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (PISTON) commenced its two-day strike with some vowing not to leave the picket line until the LTFRB takes back its set deadline for franchise consolidation, which effectively phases out traditional jeepneys, at the end of the year.

PISTON has asserted that approximately 60,000 jeepney drivers and 25,000 jeepney operators nationwide face impending job loss if the Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP) pushes through.

“The administration should thoroughly study the PUVMP because if we don’t return to service in January, it would lead to a transport crisis,” warned PISTON national president Mody T. Floranda, underscoring the urgency of their demands.

IBON Foundation, a progressive-leaning think tank, predicted a dire consequence of the government’s refusal to extend the consolidation deadline.

It said that jeepney fares could surge up to fivefold due to only 57% of public utility jeepneys and 65% of utility van express vehicles nationwide being consolidated.

“Millions of commuters will have to deal with longer lines, longer waiting times, and more crowded rides from the start of the new year,” warned IBON Foundation.

President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. has affirmed the year-end deadline for franchise consolidation — a key component of the PUVMP — citing how 70% of public utility vehicle (PUV) operators had committed to consolidate.

But PISTON retorted: “Is this the ‘minority’ Marcos Jr. is talking about?” Mr. Floranda said thousands of public transport workers are being neglected.

Under the PUVMP, operators are mandated to surrender individual franchises for consolidation under a cooperative or corporation serving a specific route in order to pave the way for the purchase of new and more environment-friendly public transport vehicles.

PISTON argued that the policy is flawed, anti-poor, and favors big businesses.

IBON Foundation’s statement said: “The Marcos Jr. administration is indifferent to the plight of PUV drivers, operators, and commuters and instead is more concerned with private sector interests.”

Meanwhile, the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) prepared for the strike by readying over 600 rescue vehicles to assist affected commuters in the capital.