Manibela, Piston say protest to push through; Gov’t readies contingencies
The weeklong transport strike starting March 6 will push through even as more groups on Thursday said they would not join the protest and distanced themselves from its Manila-based organizers.
“The transport strike will push through. Nothing has happened in the Senate hearing. The bottomline is the PUV phaseout will still happen,” Manibela said in a Facebook post after yesterday’s hearing of the Senate public services committee chaired by Senator Grace Poe.
Transport group PISTON said it will not stop protesting until the government revises it PUV Modernization Program, noting that merely extendint the deadline is not enough.
The Northern Mindanao Federation of Transport Service Cooperative (Nomfedtrasco), however, said it opposes the declaration of Manibela, led by its chairperson Mar Valbuena, for a nationwide transport strike.
The statement, signed by Luzminda Escobidal and Melvin Erederos, the group’s chief executive officer and chairperson, respectively, noted that the group’s members are compliant and supportive of the modernization plan.
“There were (at least) 20 transport service cooperative members that already have operational modernized units, and they comprise 45 percent of our total membership,” it said.
Nomfedtrasco has 47 primary transport service member-cooperatives.
Pampanga-based members of the Federation of Jeepney Drivers at Operators (FEDJODA) also announced that they would pull out of the planned national transport strike.
The National Public Transport Coalition (NPTC) also announced the cancellation of the mass transport strike to give way to the Senate’s ongoing probe of the PUV modernization program.
A group of Transportation Network Vehicle Service (TNVS) drivers also said they will not participate in the one week transport strike.
The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority said it will deploy buses and vans to offer free rides to commuters as it ordered an inventory of LGU assets that can be tapped to augment public transport.
MMDA chairman Romando Artes said the agency is studying the possible suspension of the number coding scheme in Metro Manila during the weeklong strike.
Operators of mass rail transit in Metro Manila are likewise preparing contingency measures.
“Internally, we are preparing to ensure essential manpower and service availability for LRT-1, as well as prepare for possible surges in ridership, during the said period,” Jacqueline Gorospe, head of Communications & Customer Relations at the Light Rail Manila Corp. said.
“LRT-1 will be operational from 4:30 a.m. (first trip) – 10:15 p.m. (last trip) to serve our commuters,” she added.
The Department of Transportation (DOTr) and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTRFB) officials, meanwhile, said traditional jeepneys can still operate beyond the set deadline as long as they join transport cooperatives.
DOTr Undersecretary Mark Steven Pastor said the LTFRB memorandum circular 2023-13 pertains to the end of consolidation period, and not the phase out.
Under consolidation, he noted that a traditional jeep will be allowed to ply their route as consolidated.
He said the deadline for consolidation was moved from June 30 to Dec. 31 to clarify the apparent misunderstanding of the wordings of the memorandum circular.
“We do recognize there’s room for improvement in the memorandum circular,” Pastor said.
LTFRB chairman Teofilo Guadiz III also clarified that the deadline for Dec. 31 is not for the phaseout of the jeepneys.
“The deadline is only for the consolidation,” said Guadiz as he called on drivers to come together, consolidate as one and start the formation of a coop in pursuit of modernization.
“After the consolidation, there would be other stages of this modernization scheme. One of which is probably introducing to the bank for a study on their route and of the funding. The phaseout will be the last stage,” he said.
Majority Leader Joel Villanueva questioned LTFRB officials why only 139 local government units (LGUs) had approved the Local Public Transport Route Planning (LPTRP) when the PUV Modernization Program had been implemented since 2018.
“We are not against PUV modernization. It cannot be avoided but it cannot be rushed or forced. Our question is: Is there a ‘mafia’ that is pushing this even though it is obvious that our countrymen are complaining?” he asked.
LPTRP consists of a detailed plan of routes and number of PUV units which is a major requirement for the issuance of franchises and subsidies to PUVs.
Of the 1,575 LGUs, 985 LGUs have already submitted LPTRP, 198 are under evaluation and 648 still under revision.
Senators said they were baffled why only a few route rationalization plans have been approved when the PUV modernization has long been implemented and extended six times.
LTFRB board member Riza Marie Paches said they had been faced with a challenge in the processing of LPTRP due to the previous elections and the change of personnel on the ground.
Another challenge, Paches noted, was the return to the LGUs of the route rationalization plan that was already reviewed.
In the same hearing Poe sought to indefinitely postpone the deadline for traditional jeepneys to consolidate as she urged the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to first iron out its modernization plan.
She also called on LTFRB to implement what would be the seventh deadline extension in the validity of the provisional authorities or franchises of traditional jeepneys.
“Fix your problems first in coordinating with the local government units and all of that before you set a deadline. For me, it should be open-ended. Don’t pin down a deadline,” she said.
She said the move to defer the deadline for jeepney consolidation from June 30 to Dec. 31 was only meant to save the image of transport officials.
She asserted that the LTFRB is not prepared to roll out the modernization program by December when it has not even secured the compliance of even 10 percent of jeepney drivers and operators.
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