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Transport strike vs PUV modernization set for April 29 to May 1

Transport group PISTON announced on Saturday a three-day nationwide strike next week in protest of the public utility vehicle (PUV) modernization program and the looming April 30 deadline for consolidation of jeepney franchises.

In a media forum in Quezon City on Saturday, PISTON deputy secretary general Ruben Baylon said the transport strike would start on April 29 and culminate on May 1, when their members will join marchers for Labor Day protest actions.

"Ito ay kinakailangan nating gawin upang ipaglaban natin ang ating mga kabuhayan sa sektor ng transportasyon (We have to do this to fight for our livelihoods in the transportation sector)," Baylon said.

"Ang a-uno [ng Mayo], sabi nila, huhulihin na raw ang mga jeep. Karapatan ng mamamayang Pilipino na maglingkod sa sambayanan. Kung kaya, kahit na matapos ang deadline, hindi titigil sa pamamasada ang mga drayber at operator," Baylon added.

(Jeepneys that fail to consolidate starting May 1 will be apprehended. Filipino citiizens have the right to serve their countrymen. Even if the deadline lapses, drivers and operators will not stop plying their routes.)

"Mass up" areas in Metro Manila for the transport protest, Baylon said, will include Alabang, Baclaran, Sucat, Taft Avenue, Agoncillo, Monumento, Novaliches, Litex, Anonas, Katipunan, and Philcoa.

He said transport group MANIBELA was also preparing for the strike, although its chairman Mar Valbuena told Super Radyo dzBB on Saturday morning that he still needed to speak with PISTON about the schedule.

Labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) expressed solidarity with the jeepney drivers, vowing that some of its members will join them in protest actions as early as April 29.

For the May 1 Labor Day action, KMU secretary general Jerome Adonis said that marchers from various sectors will converge at 6:30 a.m. in front of University of Santo Tomas along España Avenue and proceed to the United States Embassy in Manila along Roxas Boulevard.

Issues related to wages and livelihood, particularly the drivers decrying the cost of modernizing their jeepneys, will be among the key themes for the protest marchers.

Parliament of the streets

Asked about jeepney drivers who would refuse to participate in the transport strike, Baylon said that it was just natural to be fearful if they are being pushed to a corner.

"Dapat palakasin ang kanilang mga loob para sila'y manindigan (Their resolve has to be strengthened so they can take a stand)," Baylon said.

President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. earlier this month said there would be no more extension of the application for consolidation of individual PUV operators to form or join transportation cooperatives.

The Supreme Court last week said that it was still deliberating on the petitions of PISTON and other transport groups filed last December. The petitioners had requested that several relevant issuances of government transportation agencies be declared null and void, and that a TRO be issued against the respondents from enforcing the issuances.

Last Tuesday, jeepney drivers and operators on Tuesday asked the Supreme Court to act on their petition for the TRO.

Baylon said, "Ginawa na namin ang lahat ng paraan: dialogue, petisyon, nag-lobby sa mga ahensya, nagpadala ng sulat sa Malacañang, nagwelga na kami, nagpunta na kami sa House of Representatives, HOR, nagpunta nga kami sa Supreme Court. Hanggang ngayon, inaasahan namin ang desisyon ng House of Representatives at ng Supreme Court, kaya amin ang parliament of the streets," Baylon said.

(We have tried everything: dialogue, petition, lobbied at agencies, sent a letter to Malacañang, protests, went to the House of Representatives, HOR, went to the Supreme Court. Until now, we are looking forward to the decisions of the House of Representatives and the Supreme Court. So, the parliament of the streets is ours.)

The consolidation is the initial stage of the government's PUV Modernization Program that aims to replace traditional jeepneys with vehicles that have at least a Euro 4-compliant engine to lessen pollution and replace units that were not deemed roadworthy under the standards of the Land Transportation Office (LTO).

Transport groups have said in previous protest marches that their members have lost their jeepney units after their vehicle registrations were transferred to transport cooperatives. — VDV, GMA Integrated News