MANILA — Various jeepney routes in Metro Manila and major roads in the provinces nationwide were almost hundred percent clear of public utility jeepneys on October 16 and 17, during the two-day transport strike. Piston estimated the participation in the strike was 90 percent on average in targeted routes. The government said it was barely felt.
However, various monitoring reports culled by Mayday Multimedia showed the streets markedly clear of public utility jeepneys even during rush hours. Steve Ranjo, the secretary general of Piston, said a lot reported up to 90 percent strike participation, and some were totally into the strike. The police also reportedly made their presence felt to intimidate the strikers. In Pampanga, the strikers reported that a team of Special Action Forces armed with high-powered rifles were at their designated picket center at San Fernando junction from 6:00 am on October 17. The day before, drivers in Angeles City reported that persons claiming to report to the city mayor went house-to-house to dissuade them and threaten them in case they joined the strike. Similar police presence and intimidation were reported in other cities.
The transport groups are pushing for a people-centered jeepney modernization and opposing that of the government. Piston said the public is being misled by the government into believing that the government is seeking modernization when it is simply “marketing” for P1.2 million to P1.6 million ($23,367 to $31,156) new jeepneys which it plans to contract with the likes of Toyota and Mitsubishi. Next, the government is pushing to transfer the control and operation of jeepney transportation to entities with P7 million ($136,306) capital or more. This will mean higher fares, Piston warned. They are proposing to rehabilitate the jeepney instead.
The drivers and operators parked their jeepneys and held programs in their designated mass up centers nationwide. They were joined by supporters such as students, workers, employees, Church people.
“Amidst the attacks on their livelihood such as oil price increases, strict franchising and regularization guidelines of the government and other fees imposed on them, our jeepney drivers and operators never ceased to provide service to the public. They should be supported and provided rehabilitation by the government,” said Mylene Cabalona, spokesperson of BPO Industry Employees Network (BIEN).
“The jeepney drivers and operators should be treated as partners in providing service to the people, and in developing a people-centered modernization program that is inclusive, equitable, owned and controlled by the public, and promoting an improvement of people’s lives. We do not want another disaster of a corporate takeover of public service,” Cabalona of BIEN said. She is referring to the MRT (Metro Rail Transit) that has been disgorging passengers midway between stations due to mishaps. This, despite the billion-peso budget subsidizing the railways and the fare hike imposed supposedly to improve services.
“While we agree that there is a need to upgrade and modernize the current transport vehicles into environmentally-sound ones, the current DOTr and LTFRB “modernization” scheme is more like a red herring that would surely displace the livelihood of at least 400,000 jeepney operators and drivers nationwide and entrap the riding public in runaway cost of fares,” said the Center for Environmental Concerns (CEC).
“The DOTr scheme passes the cost of the prescribed new solar-powered/electric/Euro-4 jeepneys that amounts to P1.5M ($29,208) per unit to the common driver-operators who barely earns P500 ($9.74) a day. In addition to this, for the drivers to avail of the new franchise scheme, he/she should have at least 10 units equipped with modern technologies (GPS, speed limiters, WIFI, among others) which are impossibly expensive for the impoverished jeepney drivers to buy and maintain. Clearly, only the big and powerful corporations can engage in such a costly undertaking,” CEC said.
The environmentalists challenged the government about its supposed drive for safe and environmentally sound technologies. “It can always explore and offer other technological options and services and even other funding mechanisms that would ease the modernization cost for the drivers and operators,” said the CEC in a statement.
The CEC said that for climate justice, the country’s use and promotion of clean and renewable technologies should be borne by developed countries or those whose current and historical emissions have brought about climate change. “Access to clean and safe technology should not be a burden to people already saddled with low wages, inadequate income, joblessness, and high prices.”