By Ashley Erika O. Jose, Reporter and Jomel R. Paguian
THE LAND Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) said on Sunday it expects the three-day nationwide transport strike beginning Monday to have a minimal impact, even as the group spearheading it has gained support from labor and youth groups.
The Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operators Nationwide (PISTON) is waging a three-day strike to call for the suspension of the government’s Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP), which effectively phases out traditional jeepneys in favor of new generation transport vehicles by the end of the year.
But LTFRB Chairman Teofilo E. Guadiz III reiterated that several transport groups have committed to operate and ply their routes, while the LTFRB will deploy about 250 vehicles to convey any stranded passengers in Metro Manila.
“In the event of a transport strike, rest assured that we are fully prepared to offer free rides to the public,” Celine B. Pialago, LTFRB spokesperson, said in a Viber message on Sunday.
The LTFRB has already coordinated with local government units to preposition vehicles at strategic areas to offer free rides to passengers who may be affected by the transport strike.
Also, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) announced on Sunday the suspension of the expanded number coding scheme covering private vehicles on Monday.
In a statement in Filipino, PISTON President Mody Floranda said: “It’s (PUVMP) really not about improving public transport but making it easy for big businesses and corporations to take over the routes and livelihoods of small operators.”
London-based International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) expressed support for PISTON’s cause.
“Public transport is a major national asset and must be run in the interests of workers and passengers,” Alana Dave, ITF director of urban transport, said in a statement.
“Any modernization and investment in public transport must contribute to overcoming existing inequalities and achieving economic and social justice for the working class,” she added.
Youth activists’ group, Anakbayan, said it also stands in solidarity with PISTON, bewailing how the government program would replace jeepneys with foreign-made modern PUVs that cost P2.5 million to 2.8 million per unit. “In turn, the higher price of the modern jeepney means higher passenger fares,” it said in a statement.
Meanwhile, labor group Federation of Free Workers (FFW) called for the immediate suspension and review of the current modernization initiatives.
“FFW urges the government to halt and re-evaluate its modernization programs, which have been without comprehensive consultation with all affected stakeholders,” said the federation president Jose “Sonny” G. Matula in a statement.
“Despite challenges, the LTFRB remains optimistic for a constructive dialogue with PISTON’s participation in the PUV Modernization Program, as 60% of the transport groups have expressed their support for this initiative,” said Ms. Pialago.