Jeepney drivers and small operators stopped plying their routes and joined in the transport strike today to amplify their calls against the national government’s PUV modernization program.
The Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide (PISTON) and No to Jeepney Phaseout Coalition (NTJPOC) launched a transport strike in some of Metro Manila’s major routes.
Photos by Erika Cruz, Jade dela Cuadra, Sarah de Leon, Agatha Rabino, Karen Serada, Kate Simple
According to initial reports by PISTON and NTJPOC, as of 9:30AM, the transport strike has managed to paralyze the following routes:
CUBAO – 75%
Cubao-Manila (Marikina-Sta. Mesa)
Tayuman-Lardizabal – 100%
Balic-Balic España – 90%
Tayuman-España – 100%
MONUMENTO – 75%
SANGANDAAN – 90%
NOVALICHES – 100%
LAS PIÑAS – 90%
ALABANG – 90%
PISTON National President George San Mateo also noted that PISTON chapters from Bulacan, Rizal, Laguna, Cavite, Batangas, and Northern Mindanao also participated in the transport strike and held protest programs in key areas.
University and school officials have suspended classes amid the transport groups’ demonstrations today. The local government units of Manila, Quezon City, Taguig, and Laguna have cancelled classes on Sunday night.
As of 2PM, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque announced the suspension of classes on all levels in Metro Manila.
The Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) also suspended the number coding scheme for private vehicle owners.
Transport groups seek understanding, support from riding public
In a Facebook post Sunday night, San Mateo urged commuters to learn about the PUV modernization program which, for the drivers, is essentially a phaseout of old jeepneys.
He also called on fellow jeepney drivers and operators to participate in the nationwide strike.
Students and progressive groups joined the drivers and small operators in decentralized demonstrations across the metro.
“Kung may dapat i-phaseout sa Pilipinas, si Duterye ‘yun at hindi ang mga jeep. Ang phaseout ni Duterte ay walang magagawang mabuti sa mga drayber at estudyante. Tataas na nga ang pamasahe, mawawalan pa ng trabaho ang mga drayber at operator,” said University of the Philippines Manila student Paco Perez.
(Duterte should be phased out and not the jeepneys. Duterte’s phaseout [scheme] won’t do any good to the drivers and the students. Not only will there be fare increases; the livelihoods of drivers and operators will be put at stake.)
Gov’t pressured to reveal agenda behind PUV modernization
In June 2016, government agencies announced the Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP) which aims to provide commuters a “safe, adequate, comfortable, and environment-friendly road-based public transportation system”. The program is spearheaded by the Department of Transportation (DOTr) with the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) and the Land Transportation Office (LTO).
The DOTr issued the Omnibus Guidelines on the Planning and Identification of Public Road Transportation Services and Franchise Issuances or Department Order 2017-011 (Omnibus Franchising Guidelines), stating that jeepneys operating for 15 years or more will be scrapped. The government argues that these units are no longer road-worthy – the engines aren’t compliant with international standards and thus cause environmental harm. They say the size of the old jeepneys are inadequate, resulting in traffic congestion from passengers rushing to be seated first.
The program also covers buses and public utility vans, but has been giving emphasis on the replacement of ageing jeepneys with new units.
For drivers and small operators, however, the modernization program serves as a pretext to forward the corporatization of the transport system.
A study by think tank IBON reveals that replacing 250,000 jeepney units means a P300-billion market for foreign manufacturers. New jeepney units carry a P1.2 to P1.6 million price tag. The new vehicles’ main parts will be imported from foreign companies like Hino, Isuzu, Fuso, and Foton. Euro IV engines will come from India, China, and Japan.
“Hindi po tayo tutol sa modernization pero tutol tayo sa jeepney phaseout na isinusulong ng pamahalaan sa ilalim ng pekeng negosyong modernization program,” San Mateo said.
(We are not against modernization. We are against the phaseout of jeepneys that the government is campaigning for under a fake, corporate-oriented modernization program.)
Phaseout ‘a matter of the stomach’
For transport groups, behind the government’s plan of modernizing public transport is the inevitable loss of livelihood of 500,00 drivers, 300,000 small operators, and two million of their family members.
Under the Omnibus Franchising Guidelines’ fleet management system, only operators with a minimum of 20 new jeepneys will be granted a franchise. Drivers who will pass the age and educational requirements will become salaried workers.
Jeepney drivers argue that the reason why they opted to drive jeeps and ply their routes everyday is because they had only finished high school or had not been able to go to school at all.
“Usapin ng sikmura, usapin ng kabuhayan ‘yan. At the end of the day, ang mahalaga d’yan ay mawawalan kami ng hanapbuhay. Magugutom ang pamilya namin. Masisira ang kinabukasan ng mga anak namin,” said San Mateo in an interview.
(This is a matter of the stomach, a matter of livelihood. At the end of the day, what matters is we will be stripped off our livelihoods. Our families will go hungry. Our children’s futures will be put in danger.)
“Hangga’t ‘di pa nare-resolve ang isyu na ito, hindi tayo titigil sa pagpoprotesta,” added San Mateo.
(Until this matter is not resolved, we will not stop protesting [the jeepney phaseout]).
With reports by Jade dela Cuadra, Sarah de Leon, Agatha Rabino, Karen Serada, and Kate Simple