THE nationwide transport strike began early Monday as jeepney drivers pulled off the streets their public utility vehicles (PUVs) in protest against a planned modernization program.
Led by the Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (PISTON), the drivers began their protest as early as 6 a.m.
Before this, Malacañang cancelled classes in all levels in public and private schools as well as work in government offices nationwide.
“This [suspension of classes and government work]is to minimize public inconvenience arising from the planned nationwide transportation strike,” Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said on Sunday.
Private sector workers are not covered by the order but employers have the authority to suspend work as they see fit.
“The two-day nationwide transport strike on October 16 and 17 should serve as a wake-up call to the Department of Transportation to listen to the jeepney drivers and operators, who have been airing their woes about the program,” Sen. Grace Poe said in a statement.
“Modernization should not result in the displacement of jeepney drivers, who often belong to the country’s poor,” Poe added.
According to Poe, the government supports the modernization program. However, this must be a result of transparent consultations among stakeholders.
“Representatives from the land transport sector must be included in the consultations. We are hearing complaints that the public consultations have become a mere formality to satisfy the requirements of the law. Not all groups were consulted,” Poe said.
In Cagayan de Oro City, 90 percent of transport services in this seaport capital of Northern Mindanao were paralyzed early Monday morning as various militant groups joined the nationwide transport strike called by the Solidarity of Transport Alliances in Region 10 (STAREX) here.
The STAREX has forged an alliance with the various militant groups in response to the call by PISTON.
Classes in all levels in Cagayan De Oro City were also suspended while the government offices were closed.
Aside from PISTON, also joining the strike was the No To Jeepney Phaseout Coalition.
According to PISTON President George San Mateo, the PUV owners and operators were not consulted by the Land Transportation Franchising Regulatory Board (LTFRB) on the implementation of the program.
The transport groups are protesting the scrapping of the existing jeepney units to be replaced by new models which the DOTr deemed as environment-friendly and road worthy.
San Mateo said that these units were expensive for operators, despite the government’s loaning program through the Landbank and Development Bank of the Philippines.
Meanwhile, the DOTr along with the LTFRB said that it questioned the transport groups’ agenda on protesting against modernization.
DOTr said that according to a close survey, PISTON was comprised mostly of non-drivers and non-operators.
“How can they hold a legitimate protest when in fact, majority of the protesters do not represent the public transport sector?” the DOTr said.
“Is PISTON disagreeing just for the sake of disagreement, in order to justify its existence as a militant and leftist group?” the DOTr added.
The DOTr said that it was dismayed with the transport groups’ refusal to enter into a dialogue with the government and continue to disseminate false information on the program. CRIS DY