Jeepney strike ends as gov't agrees to review modernization program

James Relativo - Philstar.com
Jeepney strike ends as gov't agrees to review modernization program
Pictured in this photo from left to right: Office of the Executive Secretary Undersecretary Roy Cervantes (left), Manibela Transport Group Chairman Mar Valbuena, PISTON President Mody Florada and Presidential Communications Office Secretary Cheloy Garafil, March 7, 2023.
Released / Presidential Communications Office

MANILA, Philippines — Jeepney and UV Express operators ended their planned week-long transport strike against the phaseout of traditional public utility vehicles after President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. agreed to study the revision of the highly controversial PUV modernization program.

Manibela president Mar Valbuena announced this on Tuesday night, alongside Piston president Mody Floranda after their dialogue with Presidential Communications Office Secretary Cheloy Garafil at Office of the Executive Secretary Undersecretary Roy Cervantes.

"[T]o start the discourse, our group decided to suspend the transport strike alongside Piston and go back to servicing commuters starting [Wednesday]," said Valbuena on Tuesday night in Filipino.

"We will hold President Ferdinand 'Bongbong' Marcos Jr to his word, that his administration is open to study and revise the implementation of the PUV modernization program to keep the livelihood of our PUV drivers and operators," he added.



Valbuena referred to their call to fully suspend the implementation of the Department of Transportation's Department Order 2017-011 which defines the rules and requirements of the PUVMP, alongside and LTFRB Memorandum Circular 2023-013.

The policy is ordering individual operators of traditional jeepneys to stop operations should they fail to join a cooperative by Dec. 31, 2023, a deadline which was extended after the announcement of the strike. Joining said entities will supposedly enable them to purchase "modernized jeeps" or minibuses — vehicles that drivers and operators claimed to be too expensive at over P2 million each.

Marcos earlier said that modernizing jeepneys is necessary. However, he stressed that its current form is "not good" and that the implementation must be changed so as not to further burden the transport groups.

"Our group Manibela is at one with the aim of the government to provide a proper, comfortable and safe transportation to the public. We are not going against the planned modernization of the vehicles, we just wish that we do it humanely and justly so that no one gets left behind," Valbuena said.

"We would like to apologize to the riding public due to the transport strike, but we had to do it so that our voices and plights could be heard. We thank you for understanding. To our comrades, do not fret. We will make sure that the 'king of the road' will stay even with development and change," he added.

Thorough consultations to be held

The government thanked Manibela in halting the transport strike while it ordered the DOTR and Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) to revisit their guidelines.

"The president ordered the DOTr and [LTFRB] to use the extension of the deadline for consolidation until December 31, 2023 to again study the provisions under Department Order No. 2017-011 or the Omnibus Franchising Guidelines (OFG)," said the Palace in a statement Tuesday.

"This is to ensure that everything is taken into consideration under the program, including the grievances of our drivers and operators."



Under the president's directives, the DOTr and LTFRB shall conduct a "thorough consultation" towards a better implementation of the PUVMP while prioritizing drivers, operators and commuters.

'Unity of drivers, commuters lead to victory'

In a press conference, Wednesday, Floranda said that they owe the gains of the two-day strike not only to fellow progressive groups and protesting drivers but also to the "widespread support of the riding public" who understood the fight against the phaseout.

On its first day, Piston claimed that around 80 to 100% of national roads in the National Capital Region were paralyzed.

"On its second day, it also went up to 80%. The protests of our coleagues at work didn't budge alongside the people. It means that our position was clearly registered," said Floranda.

"Based on our negotiations yesterday, the sector of public transport will be part of those who will study the provisions of the executive order under the omnibus processing guidelines," he added.

Piston said that Malacañang opened up to their position of rehabilitating vehicles, so that modernization would not kill the livelihood of drivers and local manufacturers of traditional jeeps.

The activist transport group said that they would closely monitor what Marcos said regarding "not phasing out" traditional jeeps that are compliant with regulations, regardless if these are already 10 to 20 years of age.

"Like what we said in the negotiations, our call is for the total junking of the [Department Order] 2017-011 because as long as it's there, our worries will go away," Floranda said.

"Secondly, we said that [Marcos] should release an executive order as proof that he's suspending the implementation [of the DO]... On our part, we will not let our guard down and continue to fight... until December 31. According to Malacañang... this should be the period of revising the... guidelines," he added.

Piston earlier feared that the high costs of modernization being levied to the drivers and operators will bury them in debt, and that only large capitalists could survive under the the PUVMP's current form.

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