With jeepney drivers and operators set to strike starting March 6, union leaders called on President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to cancel transport franchising guidelines that would give them only until Dec. 31 to join cooperatives to continue operations.
These guidelines are part of the Public Utility Vehicle (PUV) Modernization Program of the Land Transportation and Franchising Regulatory Board (LTFRB), aiming to replace jeepneys that are at least 15 years old with “more efficient and environment-friendly” electric models.
At a press conference yesterday at the UP College of Fine Arts, Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operators Nationwide (PISTON) President Mody Floranda and other transport groups condemned the program’s “commercialized” policies, slamming the high costs to make the transition at jeepney drivers’ expense.
“Sinong indibidwal na mga operator ang may kapasidad na kumuha ng mga mamahaling sasakyan na kung sa ngayon umaabot ng 2.6 hanggang 2.8 million ang halaga ng bawat isa?” Floranda said.
LTFRB implemented an equity subsidy program where cooperatives may borrow money from private financial institutions to procure modernized jeepneys. The loan comes with a 5% equity and a 6% interest rate, raising the cost to P3.4 million per unit in seven years.
On joining cooperatives, Floranda said that their sector should not be “monopolized by capitalistic cooperatives and corporations.”
“Kailangan natin ng tunay na mga kooperatiba ng PUV kung saan may indibidwal pa ring hawak na prangkisa ang mga operator,” he added.
Floranda also stressed that joining or forming cooperatives requires a “huge capital” that small-time operators and drivers cannot afford.
Nolan Grulla, UP Transport Group spokesperson, added that because of the high capital, operators chose not to join existing cooperatives and leave their jeepneys “rotting” on campus.
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“Aalisin nila ang kapangyarihan ng isang maliit na operator na talagang doon lang nila kinukuha ang kanilang kinikita,” Grulla said.
He also urged the government to reinstate the five-year franchise validity of PUVs instead of resorting to a Provisional Authority (PA).
Under the modernization program, individual operators can only continue to operate “by virtue of the provisional authority (PA)” which expires on June 30. Only operators and drivers who have joined or formed a “consolidated entity” shall have their PA extended until Dec. 31.
Floranda stressed that their sector “has no issue with modernization” if the program involves local producers and provides subsidies, especially for smaller operators to aid in the transition.
“Kapag ito po ay tinulungan ng ating gobyerno, ang epekto po niyan ay paglago ng ating ekonomiya, pagluluwal ng hanapbuhay [at] hindi pagtanggal ng may mga dati nang kabuhayan,” Floranda said.
PISTON also said the national government must implement “pro-people” policies in the PUV Modernization Program in the long run.
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Floranda added the modernization program would also affect other modes of transportation aside from jeepneys.
“Kaya ngayong darating na Lunes, hindi lamang mga jeepney ang lalabas sa lansangan, kundi lahat ng moda ng public transport ay makikiisa kasama ang iba’t ibang sektor ng ating mamamayan,” he said.
Labor union KILOS NA Manggagawa at the press conference pledged support for the weeklong strike, with spokesperson Julie Gutierrez saying “Iisa ang bituka ng aming mahihirap.”
Commuter group PARA – Advocates for Inclusive Transport said commuters will also suffer due to the modernization program, with the impending increase of minimum fares ranging from P35 – P40.
The UP Diliman University Student Council added that this fare hike would be “a big pain” for students, given the rising prices of housing commodities and lacking funds for basic student services.
In anticipation of the weeklong transport strike, the UP Diliman Office of the Chancellor issued a memorandum shifting the conduct of all in-person classes and work to an online set-up during the strike.