“We welcome and appreciate the effort of Sen. Grace Poe. That’s what we want to hear from the government.”
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – George San Mateo, national president of Piston, clarified that the protest caravan they are holding instead this Monday, December 4 and the one week series of protest actions starting today would not likely affect the public service of some 70,000 jeepneys in Metro Manila. This is contrary, he said, to what spokesperson Eileen Lizada of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) has been saying. San Mateo asked Lizada to stop the “harassment of drivers and operators” opposing the government-planned phaseout. He assured the public that there would be no attempt on their part to paralyze public transport this Monday and Tuesday as earlier announced.
Transport group PISTON and the No To Jeepney Phaseout Coalition have postponed the transport strike slated for today and tomorrow (Tuesday, December 4 to 5) in response to the efforts and invitation of Senator Grace Poe to thresh out the issue in the Senate. The transport groups welcomed the opportunity to discuss with Transportation officials in a public hearing the key aspects of what they described as fake modernization” being peddled by the government.
“We welcome and appreciate the effort of Sen. Grace Poe. That’s what we want to hear from the government,” San Mateo said.
Before Senator Poe’s invitation for a hearing concerning the government’s jeepney phaseout program, San Mateo said all they have been hearing are the LTFRB, the Department of Transportation and President Duterte’s threats against the protesting drivers and operators.
All eyes on Senate hearing on jeepney phaseout
Despite postponing the strike, Piston and the No To Jeepney Phaseout Coalition are not letting down their guard nor shelving their strike plans altogether. Even as they announced their intent to meet Senator Poe halfway, they also announced plans to hold a week-long nationwide protest against the jeepney phaseout. It starts December 4 and ends on December 10, Human Rights Day. The protests will include rallies and pickets in various areas in the country.
Aside from the forced phaseout and corporatization of the jeepneys as detailed in the government’s Omnibus Franchising Guide, Piston and the No to Jeepney Phaseout Coalition are demanding to know the government plans on route rationalization.
The transport groups hope that Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade would show up at the Senate hearing. Senator Poe has also invited Secretary Tugade.
The Department of Transportation’s website and social media have no update or information yet as of this writing regarding route rationalization. It is supposed to be one if not the main bases for the government’s “jeepney modernization” program. Automotive users supplying the current makers of jeepneys have previously complained that the government seems to be forcibly creating a market for the sale of new jeepneys. In fact, the Transportation Department website and their social media are currently flooded with posts on new Euro 4 jeepneys they want the operators to buy from P1.4 million to P1.8 million ($27,840 to $31.82) per unit.
As a whole “modernization” package, the government’s Omnibus Franchising Guide is forcing the purchase of new jeepneys in the next three years and the corporatization of these jeepneys under fleet management along newly rationalized routes. The new routes are supposed to be the basis for issuing new franchises.
But San Mateo noted that the government has not yet to this day issued or consulted with the drivers and operators the new proposed rationalized routes. This raises another set of problems for the small drivers and operators especially since by January 2018, their jeepneys are already under threat from the President himself of being towed to the junkyard. Franchise renewal starts January 2018.
“Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade must be at the Senate hearing on Thursday to shed light on this,” San Mateo said as Piston got ready to drive a transport caravan of some 50 jeepneys to Malacañang this Monday. LTFRB’s Lizada was reportedly observing the gathering of jeepneys from a distance.
If the government does not change the contents of its “modernization” program, the transport groups warned that the government is only massacring the livelihoods of more than a million jeepney drivers and operators in the country and laying the groundwork for higher transport fares in favor of a few big corporations.
Similar to the automotive users, the No To Jeepney Phaseout Coalition sees the jeepney phaseout as just a ‘camouflaged’ forcible creation of a market to compel the sales of new, untried jeepneys.
San Mateo said the drivers and operators will hold a vigil beginning Monday December 4 at the Don Chino Roces Bridge (formerly Mendiola), near Malacañang, in preparation for the Senate committee on public services hearing on Thursday.