A TRANSPORT group staged a nationwide protest against the government’s plan to modernize public utility vehicles.
As of 7:30 a.m. on Monday, however, only a fraction of the commuters or 5,000 of the 10 million passengers (0.5 percent) in Metro Manila were affected by the strike, according to lawyer Aileen Lizada, spokesman of the Land Transportation Franchìsing and Regulatory Board (LTFRB).
Lizada said that the numbers were expected to increase within the day.
“Public utility jeepneys for NCR are around 55,771 with an average of 18 seating capacity each. Multiply that with a maximum of 10 trips which is equivalent to 10 million riders,” Lizada said in a text message when asked about the figures.
The striking transport group Stop and Go Coalition called the modernization program a “phase out for the anti-poor.”
The group’s president Jun Magno said that it was opposing the government’s plan to phase out jeepneys 15 years or older to be replaced with new, yet very expensive units.
He said that the proposal would only “bury jeepney drivers in debt.” Hence, the group is pushing for jeepney rehabilitation instead of total phaseout.
“Hindi namin matanggap yung napakamahal na P1.6 million. Ang hinihiling na lang namin, sana wag ito gawing mandatory,” Magno said.
(We cannot accept the very expensive P1.6 million. We are requesting that this should not be mandatory.)
He is referring to the modernization program proposed by the LTFRB, which calls for a new public utility vehicle (PUV) to cost P1.6 million per unit. This accounts for an P800 daily payment on the part of the jeepney operator.
Lizada said that the LTFRB deployed 20 to 30 government vehicles and 70 total private buses in seven areas to ferry commuters to their destinations: Monumento, SM Marikina, Luneta parade ground, HK Sun Plaza, UP Ayala Land Technohub, MMDA Parking Lot, and Camp Aguinaldo.
“They (the buses) have been prepositioned as early as 4:00 am. Aside from that, the LTO (Land Transportation Office), MMDA (Metro Manila Development Authority), LTFRB and HPG (Highway Patrol Group) are monitoring on the ground. Each bus has two PNP (Philippine National Police) marshals onboard to protect the passengers inside the bus,” Lizada said in a television interview. GLEE JALEA