Government downplays PUJ strike; groups claim success

Bella Cariaso - The Philippine Star
Government downplays PUJ strike; groups claim success
Commuters line up for jeepneys in Quezon City amid a transport strike yesterday.
Walter Bollozos

MANILA, Philippines — Striking transport groups claimed that they paralyzed 80 percent of Metro Manila’s public transportation routes yesterday, but the government said the strike “was hardly felt by the riding public.”

“Many joined the program of the government. It’s about 77 percent. Those who did not join the consolidation after the pandemic chose to shift to other sources of income. Others decided to go to the provinces… That’s the reason why many did not join the strike today,” said Teofilo Guadiz III, Land Transportation, Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) chairman.

Guadiz reiterated in yesterday’s Bagong Pilipinas Ngayon briefing that starting May 1, the LTFRB and other concerned government agencies would go after colorum jeepneys.

“Since they have no franchises, they can be prevented from operating starting May 1. This will be done by LTFRB and other concerned government agencies who are monitoring the jeepney to ensure that everyone complies with the law on matters of consolidation,” Guadiz said.

The Philippine National Police, noting that the first day of the two-day strike was generally peaceful, also reported that the activity “was hardly felt by the riding public in Metro Manila.”

“We have not monitored any stranded passenger,” Col. Jean Fajardo, PNP public information officer, said in a phone interview, citing a report from the National Capital Region Police Office that there were no stranded commuters on the roads in Metro Manila.

Fajardo said more than 6,000 police officers were deployed in Metro Manila to ensure public safety and security during the strike.

She added that mobility assets from the PNP, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and other concerned government agencies were ready to deploy their assets to transport people who might be affected by the strike.

According to the MMDA, a total of 362 rescue vehicles were prepared to give free rides to passengers. These include the 80 vehicles – composed of trucks, vans and electric tricycles or e-trikes – from the Manila City government.

Other government agencies and all of Metro Manila’s 17 local governments also made sure that vehicles would be available to transport commuters.

The striking transport groups PISTON and Manibela said in separate statements that it paralyzed 80 percent of jeepney operations in Metro Manila and the nearby provinces of Cavite and Laguna.

“The government’s attempts to downplay the strike’s impact are futile,” PISTON claimed as it boasted that commuters were stranded along Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City and other major routes.

It also claimed that Bacolod City in the Visayas experienced a 90 percent paralysis due to the strike.

“The strike is not only justified but crucial in sending a message to the Marcos administration,” PISTON noted.

Mar Valbuena, who leads Manibela, gave the same observation, adding that a number of schools suspended classes ahead of the two-day protest to oppose the government’s public utility vehicle modernization program and the impending phaseout of traditional jeepneys.

“If there are jeepney drivers who still operated, these were in limited numbers,” Valbuena said, adding that more than 500 jeepneys joined the caravan.

Brig. Gen. Wilson Asueta, Eastern Police District director, said no untoward incident was recorded in the cities of Pasig, Mandaluyong, Marikina and San Juan.

“The situation in our areas of responsibility is normal. We are closely monitoring and we have standby teams to respond as the need arises,” Asueta said in a text message.

Caloocan Mayor Dale Gonzalo Malapitan said the situation in his city was also normal as the majority of jeepney drivers did not join the strike.

He also said the city government had set aside 50 rescue units, including two buses, to transport stranded commuters to their destinations.

Muntinlupa Mayor Ruffy Biazon said the city government also deployed vehicles to give free roundtrip rides to commuters.

In Iloilo City, Rizal Alido claimed that the national transport strike had no effect in the city as none of the Western Visayas Alliance of Transport Cooperative members joined the event. Alido is the cooperative’s president.

In Zamboanga City, the PNP also came prepared with Brig. Gen. Bowenn Joey Masauding, Police Regional Office 9 director, saying his command would offer free rides under its “Libreng Sakay” program throughout the Zamboanga peninsula as preparation for a possible spillover effect of the call to strike.

He noted though that none of the region’s transport groups joined PISTON’s and Manibela’s strike call. — Emmanuel Tupas, Nillicent Bautista, Ghio Ong, Mayen Jaymalin, Roel Pareño, Jennifer Rendon

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