Groups push through with transport strike today

Bella Cariaso - The Philippine Star
Groups push through with transport strike today
Commuters wait for alternative modes of transportation along Aurora Boulevard in Cubao, Quezon City as public utility jeepneys (PUJs) are rarely seen due to the three-day transport strike on July 24, 2023.
STAR / Miguel De Guzman

MANILA, Philippines — Transport groups are pushing through with the scheduled strike today, protesting the public utility vehicle modernization program after certain officials allegedly blocked the negotiation meeting at Malacañang yesterday, according to Manibela president Mar Valbuena.

Valbuena said the letters of Manibela did not reach President Marcos despite the commitment during the previous meeting at Malacañang that the concerns of transport groups would be addressed.

“There is finger-pointing as the letters did not reach the President. We don’t know if somebody blocked the letters and the reason for blocking them,” Valbuena said yesterday.

“There are certain people who do not want the problem to be settled as their corruption will be exposed. I will identify them soon. These are corrupt officials. The transport strike will proceed as planned,” he said.

He added that he was the one who decided to cancel the meeting after the alleged efforts to stop it.

Valbuena said at least 500 routes out of the total 785 routes in Metro Manila will join the transport strike.

“We have two venues, those who will be coming from the north, our assembly area will be at the University Avenue and we will proceed to the Land Transportation, Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) building. Those who are from Manila, at 8 a.m. they will gather in Mendiola, including those from Pasig, Mandaluyong, Pasay, Manila, San Juan, Malabon and Navotas,” Valbuena said.

While the transport strike will be concentrated in Metro Manila, provincial transport groups will hold their protest in front of the regional offices of the LTFRB, according to Valbuena.

“We are asking for the suspension in the implementation of the PUV modernization program. We are not asking for its outright scrapping but it should not be mandatory as we were given until Dec. 31 to comply. We are also asking that the validity of our franchise should be returned, at least for three years or better return the five-year (validity),” he explained.

Valbuena added that the President should also implement a revamp in the LTFRB.

“If this will not happen, the problem will persist,” he said.

Valbuena also asked the commuters for understanding as classes were already suspended in some areas.

“This (transport strike) is not an easy decision for us, but this is the only way for authorities to hear us and address our concerns,” he said.

Meanwhile, Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (PISTON) national president Mody Floranda said that during the meeting of members of the transport group on Saturday, it was agreed that a statement of support for the transport strike will be issued.

Interior Secretary Benhur Abalos gave assurance that there will be no transport paralysis today as 95 percent of transport groups will continue to operate.

Abalos met with the so-called Magnificent 7 and Mighty One where leaders vowed non-participation to the transport strike.

At the same time, Abalos said that it was agreed during the meeting to create a technical working group to handle the issues being raised by transport leaders.

The Magnificent 7 is composed of transport groups Pasang Masda, Alliance of Transport Operators and Drivers Association of the Philippines, PISTON, Alliance of Concerned Transport Organization, Federation of Jeepney Operators and Drivers Association of the Philippines, Stop and Go, and Liga ng Transportasyon at Operators ng Pilipinas.

Abalos also said concerned government agencies, including the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), Land Transportation Office, Department of Transportation and the Philippine National Police (PNP) have put in place necessary measures to minimize the impact of the transport strike.

He said a multi-agency command center will be set up at the new MMDA head office in Pasig City to monitor the situation during the transport strike.

According to Abalos, vehicles were also prepositioned at strategic areas and will be dispatched when necessary.

The PNP has also announced the deployment of its personnel to major thoroughfares and other convergence points where protests during the transport strike are anticipated today.

The PNP has also made available its mobility assets to offer “libreng sakay” or free transportation services if the need arises during the strike, PNP public information office chief Col. Jean Fajardo said.

She also reminded protesters joining the transport strike not to harass people who have decided to use public roads and transport services. — Mark Ernest Villeza

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