PUJ groups announce strikes beginning April 15

Mayen Jaymalin - The Philippine Star
PUJ groups announce strikes beginning April 15
Jeepney, UV Express consolidation still at 64.4% ahead of 3-day strike Progressive transport group PISTON protests what it calls the government's "bogus" modernization program which would lead to the eventual phaseout of traditional jeeps.
The STAR / Edd Gumban, File

MANILA, Philippines — Jeepney drivers are gearing up for another transport strike on Monday to express their dismay over President Marcos’ pronouncement that there will be no further extension of the franchise consolidation deadline on April 30.

Transport groups Manibela and Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (PISTON) will lead the transport strike, which they said will be joined by thousands of jeepney and UV Express units all over the country.

“Starting Monday, April 15, we will have a transport strike nationwide, not only in Metro Manila,” Manibela president Mar Valbuena said in a briefing.

“The series of hearings for the PUVMP (Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program) has not even ended in Congress and our petition against this is still pending in the Supreme Court but the administration is in a rush to take away the livelihood of drivers and small operators,” PISTON deputy secretary general Ruben Baylon said.

Valbuena said they initially plan a two-day strike but this could continue indefinitely even after the deadline if the government does not take action on their demands.

“The protests will continue as this will not only be for one day, or two, or three. Until we reach this deadline that was given to us, this will continue,” Valbuena added.

Baylon said the Marcos administration is not listening to the pleadings of the transport sector and that the government only extended the deadline after transport workers mounted a series of strikes.

PISTON said their demand goes beyond another deadline extension but wants the complete junking of the franchise consolidation requirement and the PUVMP.

The transport groups are also asking to return the five-year franchises of operators.

PISTON said that they have been battling the controversial PUVMP since 2017 and that they will not concede to the latest deadline set by the Marcos administration.

Transport groups said that the PUVMP is tantamount to a government-led jeepney phaseout.

Valbuena claimed that about 50 percent of operators who complied with the consolidation requirement since 2019 have actually withdrawn their applications while some operators who complied faced income losses or have already ceased operations.

On the other hand, the Philippine National Police will mobilize its assets to assist commuters who will be stranded as a result of the transport strike, according to PNP’s chief information officer Col. Jean Fajardo.

“Just hail our patrol vehicles and they will assist you to reach your destinations,” she said in a news briefing at Camp Crame.

The PNP will also coordinate with the transport groups to determine the areas where they will hold rallies to ensure public safety.

Meanwhile, Sen. Grace Poe wanted to know if there was progress in the talks between transport groups and government agencies to address the issues surrounding the PUVMP.

“We want to know how productive the three-month extension has been,” Poe said yesterday.

“Have there been fruitful dialogues between the LTFRB (Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board) and transport groups? Were there substantial efforts to reach out to the drivers and operators to help them get into the program?” she added.

Other concerns that should have been addressed by now are the “apprehensions about the loans” for drivers and operators to afford the modern jeepney units, as well as the lack of routes with consolidated jeepneys, she said.

The PUV modernization program should go full steam without a glitch and provide enough rides for the public come April 30, Poe said.

“We can’t just leave our commuters scampering for rides, especially under this extreme heat,” Poe said, as she also looked forward to the Supreme Court’s resolution on the pending petitions seeking to stop the program.

Work hour adjustment

Sen. Francis Tolentino has lauded the Metro Manila Council (MMC) for its proposal to adjust government work hours to 7 a.m.-4 p.m. as a way to decongest traffic during rush hour.

“The decision demonstrates a commitment to finding innovative solutions to alleviate the burden on commuters and improve overall transportation efficiency,” Tolentino said.

“By aligning government and private sector schedules, we can significantly reduce traffic during peak hours and enhance the commuting experience for all residents,” he added.

But a mere council resolution is not enough, because an executive order from Malacañang is needed to make it a mandatory policy in all government offices, Tolentino said.

The senator urged President Marcos to issue an executive order to enforce the MMC resolution signed by mayors on the early adjusted work hours. –  Romina Cabrera, Emmanuel Tupas, Marc Jayson Cayabyab

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