Jayvee Mhar Viloria  

The Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide (PISTON) started the three-day transport strike on Monday, November 20, as part of their protest against the government’s public utility vehicle (PUV) modernization program.

Photo Courtesy of Donn Jessie de Guzman
The transport group staged the strike in line with the December 31 deadline for jeepney operators to consolidate into a cooperative or corporation to continue operating under the modernization program.

In an interview with CNN The Source on Thursday, PISTON President Mody Floranda said they are against the consolidation as this will mean surrendering their franchise to operate.

“‘Yung usapin po ng consolidation ay ‘yun po ang pag-surrender ng kanilang mga prangkisa. Kapag sinurrender po nila ‘yang kanilang mga prangkisa sa ilalim ng consolidation ay wala na silang pag-aari sa ilalim po ng modernization program,” said Floranda.

He added that this will not just affect the livelihood of jeepney drivers and operators, but also the economy of the country.

“Malaking epekto hindi lamang sa hanapbuhay ng mga driver at operator kundi mismo sa ating ekonomiya dahil ang sinasabi nga natin, ‘pag totally hindi na tayo pinayagan na makapagserbisyo at makapaghanapbuhay, ang katuwang po niyan ay saan sasakay ‘yung ating mga manggagawa? Saan sasakay ‘yung ating mga mamamayan para tumungo sa kanilang pagawaan?” uttered Floranda.

Floranda also urged the government to just rehabilitate the existing traditional jeepneys, instead of undergoing a total modernization program.

“Kaya’t ang sinasabi nga po natin na kung ang layunin lang talaga ng gobyerno ay para ayusin ‘yung ating public transport, bakit hindi nila payagan ‘yung usapin po ng totally rehabilitation?” he insisted.

Furthermore, he told the government to establish an industry that can manufacture and supply modern vehicles first before pushing the modernization program.

“Hindi tayo tutol sa usapin po ng modernization, mas ang nilalabanan po natin dito ay ‘yung pamamaraan ng modernization kasi kung ang layunin po talaga ng gobyerno ay ayusin ‘yung ating mode ng public transport, bakit hindi ang likhain muna ng gobyerno ay magtayo tayo ng sarili nating industriya at tayo ang lumikha ng ating public transport?” said Floranda.

According to him, the Philippines is currently importing modern vehicles from other countries, such as Japan and China, which can affect the economy.

“Dahil angkat tayo nang angkat ng iba’t ibang mga sasakyan galing sa iba't ibang mga bansa, pinapatay natin ‘yung ating sariling ekonomiya dito sa ating bansa,” he said.

On the other hand, Floranda shared that they are constantly coordinating with the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and Land Transportation Franchising, Regulatory Board (LTFRB), Congress, and Senate regarding their requests to the PUV modernization program.

He said that the government agencies were accepting their sentiments, however, “talagang itinutulak pa rin nila ‘yung pag-phaseout ng ating mga traditional jeepney.”

While PISTON expected around 100,000 jeepney drivers to participate in the strike until November 22, some PUV federations declined to join since they have already started the modernization program.

“Nirerespeto natin ‘yung tindig ng iba't ibang mga federation dahil alam naman po natin na may ibang mga federation na talagang nag-modernize na rin… Sa kasalukuyan ay sinisikap po natin na sila’y makatalastasan na maging bahagi ng magaganap na pagkilos,” said Floranda.

Meanwhile, LTFRB earlier assured the public that they were “fully prepared” to offer free rides during the strike.

According to LTFRB spokesperson Celine Pialogo, they will deploy around 250 vehicles in Metro Manila to cater thousands of commuters.

Due to the nationwide transport strike, classes in some areas of the country were suspended by their local government.

On October 16, the transport group Manibela also staged a strike, bearing the same protest against jeepney phaseout. As of October 31, only 56.37% of jeepney units over the Philippines have consolidated.