CITY OF SAN FERNANDO - Transport groups all over Pampanga province have set a massive strike on October 16 to 17, to protest the government's gradual plan of phasing out public utility jeepneys (PUJs).
The two-day jeepney strike aims to show the unity of drivers and operators in the province in opposing the "threat" of government against their livelihood.
Bong Meneses, spokesperson of Federation of Jeepney Drivers and Operators-San Fernando Chapter and No to Jeepney Phase Out Coalition, said that around 7,000 jeepney units plying Pampanga and nearby provinces will participate in the planned transport strike.
"Lahat ng 54 na associations dito sa Pampanga, kabilang ang mga may byaheng Malolos (Bulacan) at Tarlac ay nagpakita ng suporta at makikiisa sa ating programa," Meneses said.
Meneses said that they are expecting at least 90 percent of the transport system in the province may be paralyzed due to the planned transport strike.
The transport groups already apologized to the commuting public for the inconvenience the strike may cause.
Meneses said that the activity is also for the simple workers' welfare, citing the fare hike that may happen once the jeepney modernization program will finally be implemented.
"Ang laban na ito ay laban para rin sa simpleng manggagawa dahil kapag naipatupad na po ang modernization program, asahan po natin na tataas ang minimum fare sa P10 o P12 habang ang sweldo nila ay nasa minimum na P380 pa rin," Meneses explained.
He added that they called for an early press conference to also inform the public of the transport strike so they can prepare early or postpone their planned travel on the said dates.
Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide (Piston) Secretary General Steve Ranjo described the government's transport modernization program as "martial law for the transport system."
He explained that the program will only be advantageous to local and foreign capitalists involved in the e-vehicles business, while slowly “oppressing” the simple jeepney operators and drivers whose livelihood depends on the single unit franchised jeepneys alone.
"Buhay at kabuhayan naming mga simpleng driver at operator ang nakasalalay sa di-umano'y modernisasyon sa transport system. Wala kaming problema at pabor kami sa pagsasaayos ng transportation system sa bansa lalo't para ito sa publiko, ngunit ang tanggalin kaming mga simpleng driver ay hindi makatarungan," he said.
Under the modernization program, PUVs more than 15 years old will be banned from the road, and will be replaced by vehicles with "low-carbon and low-emission technology."
The Land Transportation Franchise and Regulatory Board will assess PUV franchises that will expire in the next few months to see if they are compliant with the department order known as the Omnibus Guidelines on the Planning and Identification of Public Road Transportation Services and Franchise Issuance.
The modernization program will also stop giving franchise to single-unit operators and will just give access to the government financing program.
However, Ranjo said that one jeepney unit will cost around P1.2-million to P2-million and its operation will be under fleet management.
He added that jeepney operators and drivers will then be dependent on a monthly wage system which they strongly opposed.
"Ito ay malinaw na atake sa mga malilit na jeepney drivers and operators. Ang pagpundar namin ng mga jeep na ito ay hindi biro at hindi kami papayag na basta na lang kami tanggalin sa daan habang bago, sariwa at mapakikinabangan pa ang aming mga sasakyan," he said.