MANILA (UPDATE) — The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) appealed to transport group PISTON to call off its planned three-day transport strike starting Monday.
In a press briefing on Thursday, LTFRB Chairperson Teofilo Guadiz III said he reached out to PISTON National President Mody Floranda in hopes of coming up with a compromise for the sake of commuters.
Guadiz also warned that jeepney drivers who would join the strike could have their franchises revoked.
“Unang-una, ito ay salungat sa kanilang usapan sa gobyerno na ang prangkisa ay isang pribilyeho. Pagka itinuloy nila ito, posibleng mawalan sila ng prangkisa o masuspinde ang kanilang prangkisa,” he said.
But in an interview with Teleradyo Serbisyo, Floranda said PISTON would only to cancel the transport strike if the government heeds its demands regarding the Public Utility Vehicle (PUV) modernization program, including scrapping the consolidation requirement that they feared would deprive single-unit operators of route franchises.
“Yung kooperatibo po ngayon, halimbawa, kung ako yung operator, hindi ko alam alin yung aking unit, alin yung binabayaran ko, alin yung aking property sa kooperatiba dahil ang nakapangalan na dito ay mismong kooperatiba na lamang. Pero ikaw yung nagbabayad,” said Floranda.
The LTFRB insisted that franchise consolidation is important especially as it would make it easier for jeepney drivers and operators to comply with the modernization program.
“Bakit nire-require ang consolidation? Kasi ang magbabayad na nyan ay yung transport service entity, hindi yung driver. Second, pag nag-loan sila sa banks, dapat consolidated sila kasi yung viability to pay (ay) nandoon sa consolidation. So dapat 'wag silang matakot,” said LTFRB Technical Divison Head Joel Bolano.
Guadiz also assured commuters that public transportation would still be available, even if the transport strike pushes through.
“About eight to 12 routes ang pwedeng tamaan (sa Metro Manila) so nag-issue na kami ng special permit para sa mga jeepney na may ibang ruta. Pwede nilang tahakin itong mga ruta na maaapektuhan ng strike,” he said.
“May coordination po kami with local government units para sa areas na, kung kukulangin pa ang mga jeep na aming ilalaan, may libreng sakay na ibibigay ang LGU,” he added.
Guadiz said the transport strike might not have a significant impact in the provinces while the situation in the capital region would be manageable. He said there was no need to suspend classes or work from November 20 to 22.
Nearly 40 operators and drivers associations with some 7,000 jeepneys have confirmed their participation in the strike, said PISTON-Pasig spokesperson Zaldy Canabal.
COMMUTERS' SAFETY GROUP: STOP STRIKE
In an interview on Teleradyo Serbisyo, the National Center For Commuter Safety and Protection urged PISTON to call off the strike.
Elvira Medina, the group's chairman, said transport groups were using the opportunity to hold commuters hostage.
"Gamit kaming paen sa gobyerno," said Medina.
"What they are doing, bina-blackmail nila ang gobyerno para ipagpatuloy nila ang kanilang lumang sistema," she added.
Medina said it was high time to shift to modern jeepneys to ensure commuters' safety and security.
Apart from issues with consolidation, PISTON earlier argued that it would be less expensive to just upgrade their existing jeepneys to make them more fuel efficient and environment friendly instead of buying new units.
But Guadiz said authorities were working on a system where PUV drivers and operators would not need to make down payments or pay monthly installments for modern jeepneys.
“Meron po akong ginagawang pag-uusap sa mga malalaking sektor ng factories ng sasakyan, yung concept ng lease to own. Walang down payment si operator. May sweldo si driver, may kita rin si kooperatiba,” he said.
"Pag nasira si jeep, papalitan ng bago ng manufacturer at no expense to the operator. So itong pangamba na wala silang mailabas na pera ay hindi na excuse."
Some drivers and operators argue that "modern jeepneys" are too expensive and will deprive single-unit operators of route franchises that will then go to big corporations and to transport cooperatives.
They said upgrading existing jeepneys would be a less expensive way to make them more fuel efficient and environment friendly.
"Yung mga local rebuilders natin na may kakayahan naman na mag-build ng ating mga traditional jeepney or iconic jeepney. Ang importante lamang po ay hinihiling namin na maglagabas ng memorandum circular na inaapruba yung iconic jeepney. Hanggang ngayon ay hindi pa nila tinutugunan,” said PISTON's Canabal.
"Kung kami ay papasok sa consolidation, kung kami ay papasok sa programa, malamang ito na ang katapusan ng aming hanapbuhay. Kaya mas inisip namin na mas ilaban or ipagtanggol ang aming kabuhayan kasama noong aming mga mananakay na karamihan ay mangggagawa,” he said.
— With reports from Dennis Datu and Job Manahan, ABS-CBN News