Less damage from protest

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Monday, July 21, 2014


JEEPNEY drivers and operators marched again yesterday morning, this time in Mandaue City, to protest against increased penalties for transportation-related violations.

Several commuters bound for work and school got stranded, but the Mandaue City Government quickly deployed vehicles offering free rides.

At least 200 members of the Pinagkaisang Samahan ng Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (Piston) joined the rally, said Piston Cebu coordinator Greg Perez.

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For its part, the Cebu City Government fielded 26 Kaohsiung buses in its major thoroughfares, but called them back less than three hours later because transportation services were normal.

Jeepneys operated as usual, said the Land Transportation Office (LTO) 7 and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) 7.

Both LTFRB 7 Director Ahmed Cuizon and LTO 7 Director Arnel Tancinco waited for the transport leaders to submit their proposals to amend Joint Administrative Order (JAO) 2014-01.

Local demand

In Mandaue, the group asked the City Council to pass a resolution opposing JAO 2014-01, or the revised schedule of fines and penalties for violating the laws and rules governing land transportation.

The order imposes fines and penalties that drivers and operators of public utility vehicles find oppressive, including the P1-million fine on colorum or illegal vehicles.

It was issued by the LTO , LTFRB and Department of Transportation and Communications.

Jeepney drivers and operators in yesterday’s protest also called for the resignation of retired Maj. Edwin Ermac, head of the Traffic Enforcement Agency of Mandaue, whom they described as inconsiderate to drivers of public utility vehicles.

They asked the City to designate more areas where jeepneys can unload and pick up passengers, and act on abusive traffic enforcers.

Dialogue

The group also decried the recent rerouting scheme implemented by the City.

After marching from Barangay Ibabao to the City Hall, Perez and other members of Piston Cebu had a dialogue with City Administrator James Abadia and Councilor Elstone Dabon inside the conference room of the mayor’s office.

Dabon, chair of the committee on transportation, said the City Council will have to hold a public hearing involving all stakeholders before coming up with a stand on JAO 2014-01.

Abadia said the City will look into the demand of Piston to replace Ermac as the head of Team.

“We will bring the drivers’ concerns to Maj. Ermac and the mayor,” he told reporters.

He also asked the drivers to report any misbehavior of traffic enforcers to the City right away. “We asked them to immediately file a complaint so we can investigate the concerned traffic enforcer,” he said.

Let’s talk

Sought for comment, Ermac said he will not step down unless Mayor Jonas Cortes, who appointed him in the position, tells him to.

“If they have complaints, they should feel free to talk to me. I’m willing to have a dialogue with them,” Ermac told reporters in a phone interview.

He said he did not know about Piston’s plan to hold a dialogue with City officials yesterday.

On the group’s demand for more jeepney stops, Ermac lamented that many drivers turn existing jeepney stops into a terminal where they park to pick up passengers.

Ermac said there are proper procedures in disciplining erring traffic enforcers. He called on drivers to file a formal complaint so abusive traffic enforcers can immediately be investigated.

Unlike the rally Piston held in Cebu City last June 19, which was accompanied with a massive transport strike, yesterday’s activity did not paralyze transportation in Metro Cebu.

Not numbers

Still, the City deployed five vehicles, including a Kaohsiung bus, to transport commuters.

Perez said only about 10 percent of their members, mostly Mandaue-based drivers, participated in the activity. After the dialogue, the drivers left the City Hall and went back to their jeepneys.

Although fewer members joined, Perez said the activity was a success. “The number of drivers joining doesn’t matter. The important thing is we’re able to air our grievances,” he said.

He thanked the City Government for accommodating them at City Hall.

Earlier, three other transport groups in Cebu announced they will hold a transport strike yesterday but they called off the plan.

Cebu City, said Acting Mayor Edgardo Labella yesterday, started deploying the Kaohsiung buses around 5:30 a.m. to ferry any stranded passengers.

Around 8 a.m., however, the City withdrew all the buses after the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council found out in its command center that transportation services were functioning as usual.

Sympathetic

Earlier, the City prepared 103 buses for a strike that was being organized by the National Confederation of Transportworkers Union and the Cebu Integrated Transport Service Cooperatives.

The two groups, however, announced last Friday that they were calling off their activity.

They reached that decision after the Department of Transportation and Communications, LTO and LTFRB promised to review Joint Administrative Order 2014-01.

In his regular news conference yesterday, Labella said the review of the JAO is a welcome development, saying that the drivers and operators have valid concerns.

“The City is sympathetic to them,” he added.

Based on the order, the penalty for driving without a license was increased from P1,500 to P3,000. The penalty for operating or driving an unregistered motor vehicle was also increased from P2,000 (first offense), P4,000 (second offense), P5,000 (third offense) to P10,000.

Traffic review

The order also gives equal liability to the operators in case the drivers won’t settle their traffic violations.

Instead of planning transportation strikes, Labella urged transport groups to file a petition in court to stop the implementation of the higher fines.

Labella also said yesterday that the City will review City Ordinance 2207, which imposes fines on violations of the Cebu City Traffic Code. He said the matter is already being studied by the City Council’s committee on transportation.

Tancinco, for his part, said the dialogue last July 19 with transport leaders and Rep. Raul v. Del Mar (Cebu City, north district) was “very productive”.

He added that the Cebu Integrated Transport Service Cooperative (Citrasco) submitted its proposals to LTFRB last Saturday, while the National Confederation of Transportworkers Union (NCTU) submitted theirs yesterday.

“We are waiting for the others to submit their proposals, too,” said Cuizon, who also went to the protest rally of Piston in front of the Mandaue City Hall yesterday morning to listen to their views.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 22, 2014.

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