The country’s largest federation of drivers and operators announced another transport strike against the planned phase out of traditional jeepneys.
The Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (PISTON) said it will stage another transport strike on December 14 and 15 against the December 31 Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) deadline for franchise consolidation.
The new strike follows the three-day strike the group staged starting November 20 that paralyzed major routes in Metro Manila and key regions throughout the country.
PISTON president Mody Florande said the LTFRB and the Department of Transportation (DoTr) have yet to deliver on their earlier promise to “carefully study” their demand for the scrapping of the forced consolidation of jeepney franchises.
A key component of the 10-point Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Plan (PUVMP), franchise consolidation mandates all operators to surrender their individual franchises to a cooperative or corporation serving a specific route.
PISTON said the government’s mandatory consolidation scheme only leads to the “corporate capture” of public transport in the Philippines as only corporations and rich cooperatives can afford the imposed standards.
The scheme the LTFRB dubbed “One route, one franchise, one operator” is expected to affect 80% of all operators nationwide while tens of thousands of drivers may be driven out of their livelihood on the very last day of the year, the transport group said.
“Is this DoTr and LTFRB’s Christmast gift to us, the loss of livelihood of thousands of driver and operators” Floranda asked in a press conference last Monday, December 3, announcing their strike.
“They should be ashamed. They will be forcing many families into hunger once the new year starts,” he said.
PISTON said that only about 26% of PUV operators in the National Capital Region have agreed to surrender their franchise for consolidation since the PUVMP was implemented in 2018, indicating its unpopularity.
If the December 31 deadline pushes through, PISTON said more than 33 thousand jeepneys would already be disallowed to ply their routes starting January 1, 2024.
The group added that 64 thousand drivers and 25 thousand operators would be jobless.
“If the deadline is imposed, it clearly would bring about a transport crisis in the country,” PISTON warned.
“What is stopping (LTFRB chairperson Teofilo) Guadiz (from heeding calls to scrap the program}? He only has to issue one memorandum circular and the deadline would be scrapped,” Florande asked.
At the press conference, the transport leader asked for understanding from commuters as their strike only aims to ensure they would have still jeepneys to ride in on January 1. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)