PISTON, one of the major transport groups of Manila declares a three-day nationwide strike. Photo courtesy of ABS-CBN News.
Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Opereytors Nationwide (PISTON) intends to go on a three-day nationwide transport strike starting November 20, in protest of the impending December 31 deadline for consolidation applications under the public utility vehicle modernization project.
According to Mody Floranda, national president of Piston, the organization is not happy with the most recent changes that have been suggested for the Omnibus Franchising Guidelines.
“Itong franchise consolidation ang unang hakbang sa pang-aagaw sa kabuhayan ng mga tsuper at operator,” Floranda stressed.
According to Floranda, the ultimate objective of the franchise consolidation is to "phase out public transportation," and this might lead to a "monopoly of a few big fleet managers or corporations" that would have control over PUV routes.
Earlier in October, Manibela transportation group went on strike over the same modernization project which phases out traditional jeepneys.
The Public Utility Vehicle (PUV) modernization initiative was launched in 2017 in an effort to reduce pollution, with the goal of replacing jeepneys with vehicles.
However, operators and drivers voiced concerns about the high costs, which can exceed P2.8 million each.
There have been previous instances of transport groups opposing the government's modernization plans, such as the strike scheduled for next week.
Jeepney drivers staged a series of strikes from 2017 to 2019 to protest the jeepney phaseout program which left hundreds of passengers stranded, forcing schools and local government units to temporarily suspend operations.
Some jeepney operators and drivers welcome the PUV modernization project, with "50 percent or more" having already consolidated, according to Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) spokesman Celine Pialago.
"At the end of the day, welfare ng pasahero ang importante para sa ating lahat. ‘Pag nagkakaroon ng transport strike, sila ang unang naapektuhan," she added.
LTFRB Chairperson Teofilo Guadiz III and his board members promised to work with other local government organizations to handle the free rides for the public when the strike goes through.
As of November 15, PUJs, UV Express, minibusses, and PUBs collectively accounted for 129,568 consolidated units, or 65.03 percent of authorized units while the remaining 34.97% consists of 69,665 individual franchise holders.
As part of the government's plan to move toward more "environmentally friendly" modern transportation, the LTFRB “remains firm” to its decision of transitioning traditional jeepneys to its modernized version.