TRANSPORT groups protesting a planned phase out of jeepneys failed to cripple Metro Manila on Monday, authorities said as they warned those who joined the strike that their franchises could be cancelled.
Aileen Lizada, spokeswoman of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB), said the protest organized by Piston, Stop and Go Coalition and No to Jeepney Phaseout Coalition drew fewer participants compared with the strike last February 6.
Lizada also belied transport groups’ claim that the protest was nationwide, even as Piston President George San Mateo said 80 percent of jeepneys in Metro Manila joined the strike.
Cebu City, for one, was “on top of the situation,” Lizada said.
A total of 5,840 passengers were assisted in Metro Manila, equivalent to 292 jeepney trips, according to an interagency Joint Quick Response Team.
The Philippines has a total of 210,000 jeepneys, of which 85,554 are in Metro Manila.
The LTFRB deployed 160 private buses and public vehicles for 48 trips in six staging areas across the metropolis.
Lizada claimed Piston and Stop and Go Coalition collected up to P1,000 each from members who refused to join the strike.
Public transport operators are not allowed to force their drivers to join any protest and that LTFRB will not hesitate to cancel or suspend the franchises of those who have done so, she said.
Lizada pointed out that the LTFRB gave jeepney operators franchises to operate public transportation for the benefit of commuters, and not to cause problems.
The LTFRB received reports of harassment and threats on drivers of PUJs that did not participate in the strike in Sta. Ana, Padre Faura, Taft Avenue, Pedro Gil and New Panaderos in Manila; Petron Philcoa and Sarmiento
Street in Quezon City; Ligaya-Marcos Highway in Marikina City; and J.P. Rizal Extension in Makati City.
Spikes were thrown at Guadalupe Kalayaan Gate 1 in Makati, the LTFRB said.
Lizada said the LTFRB would hold hearings on March 8 for those involved in the Feb. 6 transport strike, and on March 9 for those who participated in Monday’s strike.
The protesters converged at the Elliptical Road in Quezon City and then proceeded to a rally at Mendiola Bridge in Manila near Malacañang.
Piston Metro Manila President Modesto Floranda urged President Rodrigo Duterte to reject the proposal of the LTFRB not just on jeepneys but on other modes of transportation.
Floranda said they did not oppose the planned modernization, but did not want to purchase newer models that were too expensive.
“Electric vehicles will cost around P900,000 to P1.3 million. What operator can purchase that kind of vehicle?” he said.
Lizada however slammed those involved in the transport strike for spreading misinformation, as she denied that the government would be phasing out PUJs.
“There was no draft order in the [Department of Transportation] on phasing out jeepneys. The transport groups had misinformed drivers and operators with their bogus claims,” she said.
Lizada also debunked reports that jeepney operators would have to pay P7 million to get a new franchise and that they must have 20 units by 2018 and increase their fleet to 40 units in 2019.
She said the LTFRB’s planned modernization program seeks to make PUJs environment-friendly under a three-year transition period. The initiative aims to convert old jeepneys to electronic jeepneys, which will utilize low-carbon and low-emission technology, she said.
The government is considering buying jeepneys that will be sold by the operators. The proceeds of the sale will be utilized as equity or downpayment on loans to be provided by banks and other financial institutions, the LTFRB said.
PNA, KENNETH HERNANDEZ AND REICELENE IGNACIO