The general transport strike set for Monday and Tuesday has been canceled, organizers said Sunday.
Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (PISTON) and the No to Jeepney Phaseout Coalition announced the cancellation of the two-day protest action in a press conference in Quezon City.
PISTON president George San Mateo said they decided to heed the call of Senator Grace Poe to "reconsider" their nationwide transport strike.
"Wine-welcome natin 'yon at na-appreciate natin iyong efforts ni Senator Grace Poe. 'Yon nga iyong hindi natin madinig sa DOTr (Department of Transportation), sa halip na harapin iyong kahilingan natin ay ite-threaten ka ng harassment, ng kaso, pananakot, panggigipit, etc," San Mateo said.
"Kaya na-appreciate natin itong pag-apela sa atin ni Senator Grace Poe at dahil diyan ay napagdesisyunan natin in due consultation sa ating mga miyembro sa Metro Manila at sa iba't ibang mga probinsiya na magbigay daan sa apela ni Senator Grace Poe doon sa public hearing sa December 7 na ikakasa ni Senator Grace Poe para ma-thresh out itong issue," he added.
In lieu of the postponed transport strike, San Mateo said that jeepney drivers and operators opposed to the government's public utility vehicle (PUV) modernization program will conduct a transport caravan on Monday, December 4 to Don Chino Roces Bridge (formerly Mendiola).
He said that they will march from Welcome Rotonda and march to the University of Santo Tomas where they will meet other groups such as Kilusang Mayo Uno and Bayan before they proceed to Mendiola.
"Magmamartsa papuntang Mendiola para singilin si President Duterte dito sa paglalabag at pangwawasak niya sa karapatang pantao ng mamamayan. 'Pag sinabi nating pagwawasak niya sa human rights ng mamamayan, pareho yung civil and political rights at yung socioeconomic and cultural rights," San Mateo said.
"So kung sa bahagi ng mga operator at driver yung pagsasampa ng kaso sa akin, criminal case, yung mga show-cause order at yung jeepney phase out mismo at yung corporate takeover sa public transpo," he added.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, December 5, San Mateo said they would conduct a protest movement either at the Department of Justice or at the Metropolitan Trial Court in Quezon City to condemn the supposed "crackdown" against jeepney drivers and operators.
"Para sa amin crackdown 'yan eh, crackdown na ginagawa ng rehimeng US-Duterte sa pamamagitan nitong LTFRB ( Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board)," he said.
San Mateo said drivers and operators will also hold a vigil at the Don Chino Roces Bridge (formerly Mendiola), near Malacañang, as a preparation for the Senate committee on public services hearing on Thursday.
Malacañang, meanwhile, welcomed PISTON's decision to call off the transport strike.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the Palace is hoping PISTON will "soon engage with the government, and support the implementation of the long-delayed PUV Modernization Program."
Roque reiterated that the modernization program's aim is to provide safer, more reliable, convenient, environment-friendly and dignified commuting experience for commuters.
San Mateo said they are planning to launch a two-day transport strike in January 2018 and time it with the government's pilot-testing of modernized jeepneys.
Poe, chair of the Senate committee on public services, appealed to transport groups to call off their planned nationwide strike and instead air their concerns in a hearing on December 7.
Poe had also invited leaders of the transport groups and other stakeholders to attend the hearing.
The committee is also expected to invite officials from the Department of Transportation ((DOTr).
In a statement released after the cancellation of the transport strike, Poe said the committee hearing will focus on all issues confronting the transport sector, including the PUV modernization program.
"Issues can be better discussed and resolved when sobriety and judiciousness are exercised, in pursuit of the highest public good," she said. "Hindi na kailangang magdusa pa ang ating mga kababayang nakaasa sa pampublikong transportasyon."
LTFRB board member Atty. Aileen Lizada said the agency will continue to monitor transport terminals and routes of PISTON and its allied groups.
"We have directed the head of the enforcement to direct all enforcers to check the terminals of the PISTON as well as the routes involved then we will decide tomorrow before noontime if we will proceed with the monitoring the whole day. We will not rely on the presscon, we cannot afford surprises for the riding public," Lizada said.
"This directive likewise have been given to all regional offices for them to check the routes and terminals of PISTON and their allied transport groups or labor groups then the regional directors will decide before noontime to push through or to cancel the monitoring proper," she added.
The DOTr launched in June the PUV modernization program, setting higher safety standards and introducing a new design.
Under the modernization program, PUVs are required to comply with “emission standards (euro-4 and above) set forth in the Omnibus Franchising Guidelines (OFG).”
Fleet consolidation is also one of the components of the program, wherein the number of units will be determined by the Local Public Transport Route Plan (LPTRP).
“The number of units, as well as the maximum number of operators, shall depend on the demand of the approved route,” DOTr said.
“If a certain route requires a maximum of 30 units, and an operator who only has one unit wants to join, he may join a legal entity such as a transport cooperative or a corporation in order serve the route,” it added.
The DOTr further said that “consolidation of existing operators” is required “in order for them share operational and maintenance costs, reduce on-street competition, and improve reliability of their services through coordinated dispatching.”
'There is also no minimum capitalization. The investment per route depends on the LPTRP, which can be shared by an entire fleet," it added.
The prototypes of the modern jeepney which has an exit door on the side of the vehicle and bigger body to accommodate more passengers will be pilot-tested in January 2018, according to Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez.
PISTON and other transport groups had previously conducted transport strikes to oppose the government's PUV modernization program, saying that it will bury the drivers and operators in debt.
They also said the minimum fare of jeepneys will be hiked to P20 once new jeepney units are rolled out. —with Erwin Colcol/LBG/ALG, GMA News