Transport groups protest rumored re-appointment of DOTr's Tugade

This photo taken on May 11, 2020 shows a driver installing seat dividers in his passenger jeepney to comply with government-imposed social distancing rules against the COVID-19 coronavirus in Manila.
AFP/Ted Aljibe

MANILA, Philippines — Transport groups that initially supported the presidential campaign of presumptive president Ferdinand Marcos Jr. are now pushing back against rumors that he may give incumbent Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade another six-year term. 

At the Diretsahang Pananaw forum Friday morning, groups representing jeepney operators and drivers including the Federation of Jeepney Operators and Drivers Association of the Philippines and the Liga ng mga Transportasyon at Operators sa Pilipinas hit Tugade for failing to address the concerns of the sector during the six years of the Duterte administration. 

This comes after a viral photo on social media showed possible Cabinet members being considered by the presumptive president, which included the sitting transportation chief.

Marcos' camp has denied the veracity of the circulating screenshot, though presumptive Vice President Sara Duterte has since disclosed her acceptance of the role of Education Secretary, which the photo correctly predicted. 

"They didn't just fail to resolve our problems in transportation, but they also added to them," LTOP president Orlando Marquez said in Filipino at the press conference, referring to Tugade's term.

"We brought our concerns to Tugade but he never listened to us. In the end, we stopped reaching out because it was a waste of time to write letters and make phone calls. Nothing ever happened."

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Marquez pointed to three main problems he said the jeepney sector was facing, including:

  • Excessive, out of proportion, and severe fines for violations committed by jeepney drivers and operators
  • Non-contact apprehension of supposed violations that tags the allegations into the database of the Land Transportation Office, preventing the vehicle owners from registering their units
  • The great number of public utility vehicles not allowed to operate by the LTFRB, prejudicing operators, drivers and commuters

Zaldy Ping-ay, Stop and Go Transport Coalition national president warned commuters that the public transportation crisis would possibly worsen under the incoming administration with the incoming officials — including Tugade — still likely to continue pushing for the public utility vehicle modernization program. 

"It's businesses that will profit from this. Maybe they only consulted businessmen, not the actual stakeholders," he said. 

"What we're appealing from the next government is to put a stop to the PUV modernization, which causes a lot of problems in our ranks," he also said. "I hope they don't take away our right to make a living."

Drivers feeding poor families refuse to shoulder the P2.4 million price tag of a modernized jeepney. Over the pandemic, the government doubled its subsidy for these to P160,000. But the prices of units also doubled and now cost P2.4 million.

'Unity' among transport workers urged

Politically, the transport sector was largely split in its political endorsements throughout the campaign season.

While FEJODAP and LTOP among others supported the candidacy of Marcos, 30 other groups including the Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Operator Nationwide or Piston and the National Confederation of Transportworkers Union came out in support of Vice President Leni Robredo. 

As early as October 2021, Marquez was quoted as saying that a Marcos presidency would guarantee a better life for the transport sector because "he does not want the phase-out of jeepneys in the country."

But on Friday, the transport leader grew emotional as he railed over the Marcos scion's choice of transport czar, whom he called a "heartless businessman and lawyer." 

"We're calling on the next president to reach out to us and ask us who we know, who is the best person who has the knowledge to run the department...We hope they give us attention because so many problems happened in the six years we were not listened to," he said. 

Asked about the fragmentedness of transport workers, Marquez took a line from the Marcos campaign playbook and called for "unity" among the sector instead. 

"I hope that we in the transport sector, let's unite for once behind the supermajority of the Filipino people," he said in Filipino. 

President Rodrigo Duterte promised to deal with the traffic problem during his term. In his last State of the Nation Address, he claimed his administration was able to successfully "take the misery away from public commuting."

READ: Commuter, transport groups issue unity statement backing Robredo-Pangilinan tandem

Over the past few years, Vice President Robredo has been increasingly critical of what she says are the Duterte administration's "failed car-centric" policies. 

“We need a better balance for a better normal: More bus rapid transits, better service contracts for transport workers, a just transition for transport workers, protected bike lanes, bike racks, safe pathways, better bus stops, and railways for our long-term needs,” Robredo was quoted as saying before the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry for its 47th Philippine Business Conference and Expo in November. 

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