Transport unions call off supposed week-long strike after Palace talks
By Alexandria Grace Magno
After discussions with the Office of the Executive Secretary, transport unions PISTON and Manibela waived the supposed week-long transportation strike on its second day of the protest last Tuesday, March 7.
Following the protest last Monday, Mar Valbuena of Manibela and Mody Floranda of PISTON convened in a dialogue with the Presidential Communications Office Secretary Cheloy Garafil and Usec. Roy Cervantes of the Office of the Executive Secretary, to discuss the modernization program.
“Dahil sa ating sama-samang pagkilos, naobliga ang Malacañang na makipag-usap sa transport leaders. Bitbit ni Ka Mody dito ang pangunahing panawagan kay BBM: Ibasura ang Omnibus Franchising Guidelines (OFG)!,” PISTON said in a Facebook post.
Valbuena said in a separate statement that the Malacanang promised to examine the implementation of the modernization program and permitted the interim rehabilitation of old traditional jeepneys.
“Yun po ang isang malinaw, minana lang po nila ang programang ito, so dapat talaga nilang pag-aralan,” Valbuena said, as he reiterated the questions poked by the other party during their discussions including the things they agreed on working on during the Manibela and PISTON press conference.
Transport strike recap
Different transport and rights groups gathered around the cities of Metro Manila for a week-long transport strike last Monday, March 6, to protest against the modernization program.
Before heading to Mendiola to voice out their concerns on the government’s modernization scheme, protesters first flocked in front of Philippine Coconut Administration (Philcoa) in Quezon City for a short program.
“Ang nilalabanan natin ay ang maling pamamaraan ng modernisasyon,” Floranda said in his speech, clarifying that they are not against the jeepney modernization.
He added that what they are not in favor of is the proposed system under the modernization program that will put corporate ownership on modern jeeps, leaving jeepney drivers functioning more like ‘renters’ of their own jeepneys.
This was echoed by Arnold Magcaya of Manibela, saying: “Tinututulan po namin yung kailangan naming makipag consolidate sa mga kooperitaba… Lalaban po talaga kami dahil ang pinapatay ng pamahalaan ay aming kabuhayan.” the government’s jeepney modernization initiative includes phasing out of jeepney units older than 15 years old, replacing traditional jeepneys with modern ones.
“Hindi kami tumututol sa ikakaayos ng aming sasakyan, pero ‘wag papalitan,” Nolan Grulla of UP Transport Group also said, as he called for an extension of their franchise.
On March 1, days before the said week-long strike started, the LTFRB extended the deadline for the franchise consolidation of public utility vehicles (PUV) until the end of the year.
“Parang tambutsong umuusok sa galit ang mga jeepney driver sa jeepney phaseout na ito,” Ronnel Arambulo, spokesperson of PAMALAKAYA said, describing how the modernization agitated both jeepney drivers and operators.
Similar to what happened in Philcoa, protesters braced the scorching heat in Mendiola as they called for President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to provide solutions to save the traditional jeepneys from going out of business.
“Bongbong, gising!,” agitated protesters gathered at Mendiola chanted, pressing the president to take an immediate action regarding the issue.
As protestors from different parts of Metro Manila proceed with their scheduled itinerary, spokesperson of Panday Sining UST Raven Racelis told TomasinoWeb that they were approached by some police officers while preparing for their program that was supposed to begin at the Blumentritt-Avenida terminal.
“Bigla kaming nilapitan ng pulis, ininterogate yung mga kasama naming Thomasians, at the same time mas ininterrogate talaga yung mga kasama naming jeepney drivers,” Racelis said.
She added that some of them were even followed by the police officers all the way to their terminal center after they were instructed to go home, an attempt to postpone the planned activity.
“Ang sinasabi utos lang daw ito na bawal talagang magkasa ng mga ganitong kilos protesta, at pilit kaming pinapauwi,” Racelis said, when asked on what the police officers had accused them of.
PUV drivers who participated in the week-long strike may be subject to administrative and criminal penalties, including the termination of their franchise, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) said last March 6, hours before the series of strikes kickstarted.
The morning program ended with an appeal to the president to issue an executive order repealing the omnibus franchising guidelines immediately.
Wake up call from those who wake up at 4
Majority of the people who spoke on behalf of different transport groups emphasized that they were not against the jeepney modernization program. Instead, they just asked the government to stop targeting traditional jeepneys.
“Kung gusto nila i-ayos… [dapat] yung mukha jeep pa rin. Hindi kagaya ng nakikita niyo na parang baby bus,” Nolan Grulla, spokesperson of the UP Transport Group, told TomasinoWeb,
Grulla also encouraged the government to reconsider rehabilitating the traditional jeepneys instead of changing them.
Rights groups were determined to advocate for pro-people modernization in hopes of sustaining jeepney drivers and operators’ primary source of income.
“Kaya naghihinakit ako, dahil yung mga kasamahan ko diyan nila kinukuha yung pampaaral nila, na bigla nalang mawawala,” Grulla added, emphasizing the apprehensions that most of the jeepney drivers have because of the impending modernization.
Protestors and other organizations that are mostly composed of commuters, joined the first day of the transportation strike. -with reports from Justine Xyrah Garcia