Stikers cripple parts of Manila.(Inquirer photo)

Strike cripples transportation

The transport group Pagkakaisa ng mga Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide (PISTON) and the No to Jeepney Phaseout Coalition, pushed through with the two-day strike October 16 defying  threats issued by the government against the protesters, Bulatlat.com reports.

Bulatlat.com

Reporters covering various major thoroughfares in Metro Mania  noted that some jeepneys were still plying their routes on the early morning of October 16. However, drivers said in interviews that they had only set out to earn enough for the family meal that day. They would join the strike soon.

Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) lawyer Aileen Lizada broadcasted threats on TV.  LTFRB would initiate charges and deny franchises to the drivers and operators participating in the strike, the spokeswoman said.

Despite the threats, Piston said they paralyzed up to 90 percent of public transport. Schools and public offices were suspended owing to the strike.

Highlight on fighting for jeepney rehabilitation instead of scrappage

“The first day of our strike succeeded in its effort to highlight the drivers’ and operators’ concerns against the government’s jeepney phaseout and against transferring this mode of transport to big businesses,” Steve Ranjo, secretary general of Piston, told Bulatlat.

Transport Strike
Commonwealth Avenue going to Ellpitical Circle in Quezon City during rush hours. (Bulatlat Photo, Oct. 16, 2017)

He urged the public to pay attention to the issues concerning the government’s program on the jeepney, rather than get sidetracked by the ‘fake news’ emanating from the LTFRB. “Kung ano-ano ang pinagsasabi nilang fake news sa media (They are issuing various fake news), like this supposed destabilization,” said Ranjo referring to LTFRB particularly Lizada. Ranjo accused the government for failing to  involve the transport groups in the making of the ‘jeepney modernization program.’

Piston received confirmation through allies that the government’s plan included eventually denying the current jeepneys their franchises and then forcing the owners to sell it for scraps.

Piston also scoffed at Lizada’s announcement that the government is offering P80,000 ($1,540) so the driver-operators could purchase a new jeepney.

The subsidy of P80,000 ($1,540) represents the 5 percent bank requirement for issuing or approving a loan for buying the new jeep, Ranjo explained. It means the dangled “subsidy” will only go to the bank and not to the drivers forcing them  to work for a 7-year debt repayment program.

“Why will jeepney operators accept indebtedness when the jeepneys they already have can be rehabilitated to fit the clean air, safety and other requirements of the government?” Ranjo asked.

Demands for government subsidy of jeepney rehabilitation, mass transport

If the government can think of allotting P80,000 ($1,540) of taxpayers’ money for the purchase of its vetted new jeepneys, why can’t it allot the funds instead for rehabilitating the current jeepneys?

This and similar questions were asked of the government by the drivers on strike and by their supporters.

“My jeepney is newly rehabilitated. I’ve replaced almost every part – except for the roof. It’s almost all new this 2017, and 90 percent stainless,” said Antonio Samangan Jr., newly elected president of Piston-Cubao.

The Filipino jeepney, a product of ingenuity, is made of various parts fabricated and fitted together by local manufacturers.

“I don’t know why the government would not help us instead to gain a new machine to put inside our jeepneys,” Ceasar Wadwadan, president of Bay-yo Transport Association, told Bulatlat. His association is composed of drivers-operators who fix and repair their own jeepneys. He wondered why, instead of spending billions of money on new, wholly imported and untested jeepneys, the government is not investing on helping the current drivers and operators to get brand-new diesel-run machines.

Agham Advocates for the People in a statement supporting the drivers’ strike said that it is the duty of the government to provide a safe, efficient and affordable mass transportation. Considering the small drivers and operators are taking on parts of the public service that the government is not serving, Agham said it should not burden the small drivers and operators with expensive alternatives and financing schemes. Instead, they urged the government to help them replace their vehicles with minimal or at no-cost to them.

“Instead of forcing them to enter into the fleet management systems making them vulnerable to corporate capture, the government should make it optional for single driver and operators,” said Cleng Yu Julve of Agham.

Strike demands to end the government’s ‘anti-people jeepney modernization plan’

Under the government program, drivers are required to “modernize” public utility jeepneys and own at least 20 Euro-4 compliant jeepneys in addition to having at least P7 million ($135, 000) in capital.

The government will facilitate the importation and contract with corporations such as Toyota and Mitsubishi to locally manufacture up to 200,000 jeepneys by the year 2020.

According to the Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR), this means the driver must shell out at least P800/day ($15.40) from their daily earnings to pay the amortization.

CTUHR said the plan is ignoring the reality that  many of the jeepney drivers are earning only P200 – P400 ($3.85 to $7.70) a day for 12-16 hours on the road. It said the option the government is giving them would leave them in perpetual debt while they work to pay for a vehicle that after seven years will likely be in a bad state already.

“If the plan is implemented, capitalists-operators with that P7 million ($135, 000) capital will hire drivers to work for an income that is barely enough to feed their families,” Daisy Arago, executive director of CTUHR, warned.

Transport strike
Policemen bodily limiting the public space where Piston members and supporters are holding protest actions Oct. 16, 2017 (Bulatlat Photo)

“Modernization is acceptable and must be supported when the people’s rights and welfare is at the center of any program,” Arago said. The group, like Agham and other progressive organizations, supported the drivers’ two-day strike.The LTFRB claimed that the transport strike had little effect on commuters.

On the evening of October 16, Malacañang declared a resumption of classes and work in government offices on October 17, only to backtrack during the wee hours of October 17 and declare the suspension of classes and work in government offices for the second day of the strike. (http://bulatlat.com)