PISTON goes online protest
Lorraine L. Ecarma (The Freeman) - June 2, 2020 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines — Jeepney drivers in Cebu took a notch higher in their protest calling for the reoperation of traditional jeepneys in Cebu.  This time, they took their protest online.

Yesterday, the Pagkakaisa ng Samahan ng Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (PISTON) led a virtual protest “Bumusina para sa Balik-Pasada” which demands that jeepneys be allowed to operate in the streets as Metropolitan Cebu undergoes general community quarantine.

“This activity is launched in protest of the LTFRB Memo Circular 2020-017 that only new jeepneys will be allowed to operate during the COVID-19 pandemic,” read the official statement.

Under the Land Transportation Franchise and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) Memo Circular 2020-017, jeepney drivers need to comply with special permits in order to be allowed to operate in identified routes.

This is to ensure the limited operations of public transport.

Only jeepneys that are registered under a cooperative or are fleet-managed will be allowed operation. This means that small-time operators may not be allowed in the streets.

Even then, buses are the preferred units of transport as the country transitions to the new normal.

“Usa na sa pagkadako nga sagmuyo sa atong mga gagmay nga operator ug mga driver. Ang huna-hunaon unta ug buhaton sa gobyerno kay unta maka-recover ta sa taas nga panahon nga nahunong ang ekonomiya, dili kay ang phase-out ang atong gihuna-huna,” Greg Perez, PISTON Cebu Chairperson, told The FREEMAN via a phone interview.

He added that the pandemic is used as a smokescreen to expedite the jeepney phase-out, a move to eliminate traditional jeepneys and replace them with modernized jeepneys.

“Para namo, ginagamit and COVID-19 o ang pandemic para di na makabalik sa pamasada ang atong kaigsuonang driver,” he said.

It has been almost three months since these drivers were allowed to ply their routes. A large majority of these jeepney drivers rely only on driving for their source of income.

Perez also said that despite promises from the Department of Labor and Employment, their member drivers have not received subsidy from the government.

Bumusina para sa Balik-Pasada simultaneously took place in Ibabao, Mandaue City; Ouano, Mandaue City; Cordova, Cebu; Mabolo, Cebu City; Englis, Cebu City; Paknaan, Mandaue City; Hernan Cortes, Mandaue City; Cabangcalan, Mandaue City and CICC in Mandaue City.

This was joined by about 50 drivers.

In photos released in their official Facebook page, PISTON posted a series of photos of their members holding up signs bearing demands while maintaining social distancing and wearing face masks.  GAN (FREEMAN)

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