By: Daily Guardian News Team
THE nationwide strike calling against the government’s public utility vehicles (PUVs) modernization program failed to paralyze the transport system in key areas of Western Visayas, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB)-6 claimed.
But transport groups that organized the strike claimed otherwise.
The LTFRB-6 regional office said that transportation was running at 70 percent, especially in Iloilo.
LTFRB-6 regional director Richard Osmeña claimed that around 30 percent of jeepney operators and drivers joined the strike aimed at the jeepney modernization program of the government.
In any case, operators and drivers who joined the strike can expect show-cause orders from LTFRB so that they can explain why their franchise should not be cancelled.
The LTFRB had warned that PUV drivers and operators who joined Monday’s nationwide transport strike face suspension or even revocation of their franchises.
The agency said transport strikes run counter to its Memorandum Circular 2011-004 stating that any protest that causes passenger discomfort is a violation of the franchise given by the government to operators.
The warning compelled other PUV drivers and operators to shun the transport holiday, although they still share the cause against jeepney modernization.
The Iloilo City and Province Alliance of Jeepney Owners and Drivers Association (ICPAJODA) confirmed that several of its members opted to ply their respective route.
Rojo Paguntalan, ICPAJODA president, said that some of their members feared that the LTFRB would indeed revoke their franchise.
But others still pushed through with the strike as their way of expressing their objection to the PUV phase-out and modernization.
Just the same, Paguntalan said they respect their members’ decisions.
Aside from LTFRB warning, the strike was hardly felt after local government units (LGUs) and several government agencies deployed vehicles in strategic areas of Iloilo City.
The Iloilo City government, together with the national government agencies, deployed more than 30 vehicles that offered free rides to stranded passengers.
The city government sent out 20 vehicles, two from the Philippine Coast Guard, six trucks from the Philippine National Police, six patrol cars from each police station of the Iloilo City Police Office (ICPO), two military trucks from the Philippine Army, one bus from the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, and six vehicles from the Land Transportation Office (LTO).
Two to three vehicles were deployed in every district to ferry stranded passengers, as early as 6 a.m. Monday.
The vehicles picked up passengers from the public plazas and those waiting along their routes.
Priority was given to passengers at different transport terminals in the city.
The Iloilo City government even planned to allow Ceres and P2P buses to enter the city if the transport shortage worsened.
An operation center to monitor the transport strike was also established.
Mayor Jerry Treñas also suspended classes in all levels of public and private schools.
The Iloilo provincial government has also offered free rides to Capitol employees and regular passengers.
24 light vehicles and 7 trucks were stationed in terminals (Ungka, Tagbak, and Mohon) in the morning to pick up provincial passengers.
But the Capitol did not suspend classes in the province as the discretion was left to the municipal mayors.
Treñas later recalled several vehicles that offered free rides as jeepneys complained that passengers opted to avail of the free ride instead of taking PUJs.
At around 4 p.m., Iloilo City Hall employees were also allowed to go home.
Edgar Salarda leader of Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operators Nationwide (PISTON) Panay, and Alyansa Kontra PUV Phase Out-Panay, described the transport strike in Iloilo as “successful” following the huge turnout of transport groups despite threats from LTFRB to cancel the franchises of those who joined the protest.
“Diri sa siyuad kag probinsya sang Iloilo naglab-ot sa 90% ang mga nag-ugyon sa untat byahe sa pihak sang pamahog ni Richard Osmeña regional director LTFRB-6, nagsaler gid ya ang pag-respond sang drivers para magpatigayon sang maguntat sang biyahe,” he said in a phone interview on Monday.
Out of the 6, 667 units of public utility jeepneys (PUJs) registered with franchises both from the city and province of Iloilo, Salarda said that only less than 1, 000 units did not participate on the transport strike, based on their monitoring.
“Diri sa monitoring namon sa siyudad kag probinsya sang Iloilo halos, wala ka lab-ot 1, 000 ang nagpatigayun sang byahe, kulang-kulang mga 15% kag pagkahapon nagamay na ang biyahe kay gamay na ang pasahero gani temprano pa lang nagpuli na sila,” he said.
Salarda slammed Osmeña for threatening operators and drivers who joined the transport strike through a memorandum circular.
“Ginpakagamay ni director ang ginhiwat ta ang transport strike pero napamatud-an ta nga nagsala si director kay indi na siya kapamahog kag kabinutig kay ang ginagamit niya nga memorandum circular nga pagakanselahon niya ang prangkisa indi matuod bangod maagi pa ina sa first offense,” he said.
Prior to the conduct of the nationwide transport strike, Osmeña warned that he will cancel the franchises of those who will join the protest.
Meanwhile, Salarda said they are ready to face and help those who will receive show cause orders from the LTFRB.
Alyansa Kontra PUV Phase Out-Panay lead the transport strike in protest of the Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP) of the government on Monday alongside several transport groups from both the city and province of Iloilo.
Under the modernization program, old jeepneys will be phased-out by July 2020 and will be replaced with new models that conform to environment and safety standards set by the government.
If the government continues to push with the modernization program, Salarda warned that they will stage longer and bigger transport strikes in the coming months.
“Kay nabal-an sang operators nga butigon ang aton LTFRB director therefore ginapabalo naton nga himuon naton duha asta tatlo ka adlaw ang masunod naton nga protesta, pakita naton nga waay natinag ang Ilonggo sang pamahog,” he said.
In Bacolod City, the strike affected 80 percent of transport operations in the city.
Joemarie Vargas, head of the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (DRRMO), told reporters that only a few public utility jeepneys were seen plying the main thoroughfares in the city.
The roads were dominated by private vehicles, taxicabs, tricycles, and trisikads that were ferrying hundreds of commuters.
The city government deployed its bus and advised barangays to offer free rides to the public in their respective areas.
Tensions almost flared up when a particular transport company in the city decided to provide free rides and the protesting transport groups forced them to stop and ordered the passengers out of the vehicle.
Some passengers confronted the protesters, complaining that the way they blocked and slammed their hands on the vehicles scared the elderly and children.
Bacolod City police officers later arrived to stop the confrontation and restored order.
The issue over the rising oil prices and the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law was also a theme of the transport strike.
United Negros Drivers and Operators Center (UNDOC) Secretary-general Diego Malacad, said they blame the oil price hikes to the monopoly of “oil cartels,” who are also “conniving” with the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.
Malacad also cited the Oil Deregulation Law, and the TRAIN law, which he said affected not just the price of oil but also of primary commodities.
He also said the TRAIN law is “anti-people,” and the only way to solve the problem is to nationalize the local industry and eliminate the monopoly of the cartels.
Aside from the rising oil prices, Malacad said they are also protesting the Duterte administration’s transport modernization program, wherein he insisted that they cannot afford the Department of Transportation’s (DOTr) order to resort to Euro-4 type vehicles that cost P2.4 million each.
“Almost 80 to 90 percent of the operators nationwide cannot afford those types of vehicles being pushed by the Duterte regime,” he said.
Malacad added the government should instead support a rehabilitation program for the mass transport system as it is a far cheaper option compared to the DOTr’s modernization program.
Classes in all level both private and public schools in Capiz were also suspended due to the nationwide transport strike.
Roxas City Mayor Ronnie Dadivas suspended the classes but work at the City Hall continued.
The city government offered free rides, particularly to city hall workers and persons with transaction at the city hall.
Capiz Gov. Esteban Evan “Nonoy” Contreras gave local chief executives and school heads in the different towns the leeway to decide on the suspension of classes in their areas of responsibilities.
Provincial administrator Edwin Monares said the provincial government created the Kabalaka Transport Strike Task Force to monitor the activities and to assist stranded commuters.
The task force members were from the Philippine National Police, Provincial Engineers Office, General’s Services Office, and Provincial Legal Office.
Meanwhile, the Roxas City Transport Terminal (RCTT) lost half of its income after 90 percent of passenger jeepneys and 50 percent of the vans stopped their operation, according to RCTT administrator Victor Arcenas.
Arcenas said the bulk of the terminal’s revenues come from passenger jeepneys.
Around 90 percent of this province’s transport groups participated in the nationwide transport strike, according to Joebert Carandang, president of Hugpong Transport Capiz.
Carandang earlier said they are not against the government’s jeepney modernization program but replacing existing jeepney units with Euro-4 mini buses, which cost P2 million each, is not practical.
“We are just ventilating our sentiments toward the government because imposing this bogus modernization program, thousands of operators and drivers are being robbed of their livelihood. We apologize for the inconvenience this transport strike will cause to the riding public and that we ask for their understanding,” he said. (With reports from Jennifer P. Rendon and Emme Rose Santiagudo in Iloilo, Dolly Yasa in Bacolod City, and Felipe V. Celino in Roxas City, Capiz)