THE Metro Manila Development Authority said the first day of a two-day nationwide transport strike had a minimal effect on commuters Monday, but the group of jeepney drivers and operators behind the protest action claimed they paralyzed 90 percent of Metro Manila.
“Only .011 percent out of 10 million commuters were affected,” said Edward Gonzales, MMDA Rescue Emergency Group chief.
He said concerned agencies like the Department of Transportation and Land Transportation Office, and local government units provided buses and vehicles to ferry passengers to their destinations.
Gonzales said only 27 of the 74 government and private vehicles they prepared were used to ferry affected passengers.
Most of the passengers ferried were going to work to private offices.
“Passengers were picked up from Araneta, Quezon City going to Quiapo and Cubao and routes from Sta. Ana to Faura and from Baclaran to Sucat from 7:42 a.m. to 9:38 a.m.,” said Gonzales.
The MMDA designated six areas for free rides, including Commonwealth Avenue, Luneta Grandstand, Orense Guadalupe, SM Marikina, MCU and HK Plaza.
In Makati, the city government deployed four buses, six coasters and eight service vehicles from the Public Safety Department to fetch affected passengers.
It stated that various areas in the city, including Guadalupe, Ayala, J.P. Rizal, Pasong Tamo and Buendia, were affected by the mass protest.
Members of the Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operators Nationwide (Piston) and other commuter groups under the No to Jeepney Phaseout Coalition staged a two-day strike to demand the junking of the phaseout program, saying the move would kill the livelihood of over 600,000 jeepney drivers and operators.
Under the modernization program, the government will impose a 15-year age limit on PUJs as it aims to modernize the fleet of jeepneys plying the roads through a low carbon and low emission vehicle technology.
Standards on carbon emission and fleet management and maintenance would also be imposed to ensure passenger safety, and improve ambient air quality.
To address operators’ and drivers’ concern of undue economic burden from having to purchase brand new jeepney units, the government would allow them to apply for loans with the Development Bank of the Philippines.
The government would set up a guarantee fund to secure the loans of the operators and drivers.
Despite the government claims, Piston national president George San Mateo said the first day of their two-day strike was a success.
Malacañang had suspended government work and classes in all levels of both public and private schools nationwide on Monday due to the transport strike.
The Palace said the jeepney modernization program would continue over the protests by drivers and operators.
“The administration remains committed to the Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVVMP), which is long overdue,” said Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella.
“There were several attempts in the past to modernize the public transport system but these have been thwarted due to similar transport strikes, which unfortunately resulted in an outdated public transport system,” he added.
Abella said that the government’s PUV modernization program has earned the support of other transport groups.
“It is worth mentioning that, with the exception of left-leaning Piston, the PUVMP has gained the support of different public transport groups,” he said. “These include the Federation of Jeepney Operators and Drivers Association of the Philippines (Fejodap), Alliance of Concerned Transport Organizations (Acto), Pangkalahatang Sanggunian Manila and Suburb Drivers Association Nationwide Inc., (Pasang Masda), Land Transportation Organization of the Philippines (LTOP), Alliance of Transport Operators and Drivers Association of the Philippines (Altodap), Stop and Go Coalition, and majority of provincial transport cooperatives all over the country.”
The Palace also said that they will continue with the discussions, consultations, and further collaboration with members of the public transport sector, on how drivers and operators could avail of the new units through financing of government financial institutions.
Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada said the transport strike failed ot paralyze his city.
“It appears only a few protesters held rallies here,” Estrada said. “And fortunately, there were no reports of passengers getting stranded during the morning rush hours.”
Senator Grace Poe said the two-day transport strike should spur the Department of Transportation to listen to jeepney drivers and operators.
Poe said modernization should not result in the displacement of jeepney drivers, who often belong to the country’s poor.
“We support the genuine modernization of our mass transport system, including our jeepney fleets. However, we stand firm that any program to be implemented must be the outcome of transparent consultations from a broad range of stakeholders and must be equitable to all parties concerned. Unilateral decisions will prove counter-productive,” said Poe.
Poe, chairman of the Senate committee on public services, said she finds merit in the sentiment of jeepney operators and drivers: the phaseout of jeepneys must be done gradually.
She said fleet management or maintenance of jeepney units through the Motor Vehicle Inspection System should also be included in the guidelines.