From the transport groups’ gathering in Welcome Rotonda up to the area near UST and on to Morayta going to Mendiola Bridge (Chino Roces), the protesters were repeatedly confronted by policemen, Land Transportation Office (LTO) and Metro Manila Development Authority personnel.
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – The long-awaited meeting between jeepney drivers and operators and the government’s transport officials will have to wait by a few more days. Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade asked Senator Grace Poe for more time. Although he would send undersecretaries to the Senate hearing on the jeepney phaseout as scheduled on Thursday, Senator Grace Poe opted to reset the hearing on the day Secretary Tugade could personally make it.
“Sabi niya Lunes daw available siya, kaya itutuloy natin ang public hearing kasama ang mga jeepney driver para dito sa phaseout possibility, ng December 11, Monday,” (He said he’s available on Monday, so we will have the public hearing with the jeepney drivers on the phaseout possibility on December 11), Poe told reporters Monday afternoon after a hearing.
Jeepney drivers and operators from the transport group Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (Piston) and the No to Jeepney Phaseout Coalition called off their December 4-5 transport strike after Poe appealed to them to halt the strike and discuss the issues in a public hearing with Tugade.
Instead of a strike, members of the coalition in Metro Manila drove a transport caravan to Malacañang and launched a week of nationwide protest actions against the phaseout. They are facing government repression, though.
Aileen Lizada, spokesperson of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB), has said the drivers have no permit to hold a caravan and protest today. As such, from the transport groups’ gathering in Welcome Rotonda up to the area near UST and on to Morayta going to Mendiola Bridge (Chino Roces), the protesters were repeatedly confronted by policemen, Land Transportation Office (LTO) and Metro Manila Development Authority personnel. Spotted near the protesters were some 100-plus members of the Manila Police District plus a truckload of armed soldiers. The protesters also spotted an LTO personnel carrying a gun and entering the ranks of the protesters.
While picketing in front of UST and while marching at Morayta on the way to Mendiola, MMDA tow trucks and policemen visibly under the command of the LTFRB and LTO tried to intimidate the protesters. MMDA tow trucks and policemen lined up close against the protesters. A tow truck even threatened to wreck or tow the jeepneys. The drivers and supporters from youth groups LFS, Anakbayan, and Kadamay stood on the way of the tow trucks and peacefully asked the truck drivers to leave.
Poe has filed Senate Resolution No. 554 calling for an investigation into the jeepney phaseout or “modernization” program. Piston called the plan anti-poor not only because the price tag of jeepney replacement was between P1.5 million to P1.8 million ($27,840 to $31.82) which, they said, they could not afford. The “modernization” program would edge them out of the jeepney routes as it is coupled with compulsory fleet management program, a requirement that each operator must have at least 10 jeepney units or more per year. Also, until this last month of 2017, the transport groups said they still have to see the new route rationalization plan expected to go with “modernization.”
The No To Jeepney Phaseout Coalition has time and again emphasized that they are not against modernization per se. They just don’t regard the government’s program as actual modernization, but more of a profitable scheme to forcibly create a need to purchase hundreds of thousands of new jeepneys and shift these toward big transport cooperatives or corporations. Operators have long maintained that much can be done to rehabilitate the jeepneys.
Poe echoed the drivers’ concerns in filing a resolution. “While the intent of the PUV modernization program is laudable, it may have unintended negative effects for hundreds of thousands of public utility jeepney drivers and operators and consequently, the commuting public, considering that several issues remain to be threshed out regarding the program,” Poe said.