MANILA (Updated) -- Thousands of commuters stranded during the transport strike on Monday, February 27, should blame the government for their predicament and not the protesting drivers and operators, a labor group said.
"Ang dapat na sisihin kung hindi nakapasok sa trabaho ay ang gobyerno, hindi ang mga nagpoprotestang drivers na mga manggagawa din," said Partido Manggagawa (PM) chairman Renato Magtubo in an interview.
On Monday, passenger jeepneys stopped plying the road and instead held transport strikes in Metro Manila and other urban areas nationwide to protest the looming phase out of jeepneys 15 years old and above.
"Kung nakikinig at binibigyan puwang ng gobyerno ang kahilingan ng mga drivers, hindi hahantong sa welga," he added.
The protest actions had led to thousands of commuters getting stranded resulting to their failure to go to work.
Malacanang announced on Sunday evening a suspension of classes from pre-school to high school in Metro Manila, while local government units in Bacolod, Iloilo, Albay and the cities of Talisay and Mandaue in Cebu have ordered class suspensions at all levels.
The Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) has also identified critical routes that is affected by the strike and lifted the number coding scheme for public utility vehicles.
Free rides were offered by government agencies to help stranded commuters affected by the nationwide transport strike on Monday.
Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) spokesperson Aileen Lizada said 150 vehicles were deployed to aid stranded commuters.
A Joint Quick Response Team composed of the LTFRB, Department of Transportation (DOTr), MMDA, Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police, and the Philippine Coast Guard helped in transporting stranded commuters, she said.
Lizada said that even though they came prepared for the strike, only half of their supposed rescue vehicles were dispatched on Monday.
She said the objective of transport groups Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operators Nationwide (Piston) and Stop and Go Coalition to impede transportation services had "failed."
"If they are claiming that it is successful, we have only transported around 3,000 passengers. That's only amounting to less than 150 trips of jeepneys. Wala naman yung kini-claim nila na na-paralyzed. They were not able to claim that it is a nationwide strike. It is not true," she said.
Piston and Stop and Go Coalition mounted the strike, their second this month, as protest to the DOTr's modernization plan, including phasing out public utility vehicles (PUV) that are 15 years old and above.
The government is also keen to implement stricter regulations by requiring jeepney operators to have at least 10 units for each franchise and a minimum capital of at least P7 million.
"The jeepney phase out program of the government should consider, among other things, the effects to livelihood/income of affected drivers and operators," said Magtubo.
Piston president George San Mateo said the government's move is a persecution to jeepney operators and drivers.
Lizada, on the other hand, said that the protest groups are citing a department order that has not been signed yet.
"It does not exist in the record of DOTr. They are citing a reference that is not even true. Wala pang nasi-sign na department order si Secretary [Arthur] Tugade and they say they have a draft. Show us the order," she said.
She said the government only aims to provide a dependable, reliable, and safe transportation for all commuters.
"If they think that the transition is immediate and overnight, it is not. Transition ito. It will take three years. Tutulungan sila ng gobeyerno to come up with packages at para alalayan sila," she added.
Lizada said that all other major transportation groups support the modernization plan, except for Piston and Stop and Go Coalition.
"Inuunahan kasi nila ang gobyerno. Masyado silang natatakot and inuunahan nila yung gobyerno. Kaya nga pinapaasok natin yung consolidation of the industry," she said. (HDT/Glaiza Jarloc/SunStar Philippines)