JEEPNEY drivers protesting a government phase-out plan stranded commuters in Metro Manila and nearby provinces and forced schools to cancel classes on Monday.
A decision to hike the minimum jeepney fare by P1.00 to P8.00 effective Wednesday, announced by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB), did not appease the protesters from the Stop and Go transport coalition.
The fare hike covers Metro Manila, Central Luzon and Southern Luzon – areas affected by the strike.
Paralyzed were jeepney routes going to and from Monumento in Caloocan City, Fairview in Quezon City, Santa Ana in Manila, Pasay City, Makati City, and the provinces of Bulacan, Cavite and Laguna.
The government deployed buses and trucks as early as 4 a.m. on Monday, offering free rides to the public.
The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority suspended the number-coding scheme for all public utility vehicles on Monday to meet the demand of commuters for rides.
Afternoon classes in all levels were suspended in Malabon and Manila. De La Salle University (DLSU), DLSU-College of St. Benilde, Collegio de San Juan de Letran, Far Eastern University and the University of Santo Tomas also cancelled afternoon classes.
The LTFRB vowed to hold Stop and Go members responsible for the disruption, threatening to suspend or cancel jeepney operators’ franchises.
Lawyer Aileen Lizada, LTFRB board member, said the agency had received reports that participants in the transport strike harassed jeepney drivers who skipped the protest.
“We got reports that they were throwing rocks at the C5-BCDA (Taguig City) area,” Lizada said in a television interview.
“Some of the Piston (Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide) supporters were harassing jeepneys in Philcoa, Monumento to Balintawak, Katipunan, EDSA Cubao, Commonwealth-Litex, Samson Road-Letre, and EDSA Monument. They were blocking even tricycles,” she added.
The LTFRB took the plate numbers of those who supported the transport strike. “Rest assured the LTFRB will do the necessary action to put order and to discipline the [jeepney drivers],” Lizada said.
Piston was unable to join the strike because of an organizational meeting for a wider nationwide protest, but some members did. Piston members held a rally in front of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) office on Monday morning.
“The strike today proves that the drivers are ready for a wider and more massive protest which Piston is preparing nationwide in the coming weeks,” Piston president George San Mateo told The Manila Times.
Transport groups Fejodap, Pasang Masda, LTOP, Altodap, and 1-Utak did not join the strike.
Modernization, not phase-out
The Stop and Go Coalition had expected 74,000 jeepneys and thousands of UV Express vehicles nationwide to participate in the transport strike to protest the government’s order calling for the modernization and phase-out of dilapidated jeepneys.
The group said the planned DoTr order would deprive many drivers and operators of their livelihood, and was drafted without consultation.
Lizada said the transport group’s definition of a phase out was different from the LTFRB’s.
“We would like to refer to it as a modernization program. We phased out buses. Did the buses disappear from the roads? No. The buses are still there. We just upgraded the kind of buses,” she explained.
Lizada said the modernization of jeepneys could take one to three years.