CITY OF SAN FERNANDO -- Jeepney drivers and operators claimed almost 100 percent of the jeepney transport system in Pampanga was paralyzed following the two-day strike from October 16 to October 17.
"Ninety-eight percent ng lahat ng jeep dito sa Pampanga sumali sa strike. May mangilanngilan lang na namasada dahil tinatakot sila ng mga kagrupo nila hindi na sila pabyabyahehin kapag sumali sila (Ninety-eight percent of the drivers in Pampanga joined the strike. There were several who did not join because they were threatened)," Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide (Piston) spokesperson Allan Bonifacio said.
Bonifacio said the activity was successful in showing the unity of the drivers and operators on their opposition to the government's planned transport modernization program.
He stressed that Malacañang's decision of cancelling classes and work nationwide is a clear manifestation that the government is aware of the concern of the transport group.
"Ang pagsuspinde ng klase at trabaho ng Malacañang mismo ay maituturing ng isang tagumpay para sa amin at sana sa pamamagitan nito ay maintindihan nila ang aming hinaing (Malacañang’s suspension of classes and work goes to show that the strike was successful and we hope that they will see hear grievances)," he added.
Bonifacio, meanwhile, asked for the patience and understanding of commuters who were affected by the activity.
He said that the fight of the transport sector is also for the welfare of the workers who will be affected by the fare hike once the modernization program is implemented.
Bonifacio also said the rally held Tuesday in several choke point areas were done to further voice their opposition to the government's modernization program.
Bonifacio also warned they will continue to conduct transport strikes until the government starts to hear their voices.
In the second district of Pampanga, the two-day strike irked workers who
had to arrange for private transport going to their work places.
While government work and classes in all levels nationwide were suspended, private sector workers had to brave the difficulty of going to work.
As early as 7:00 a.m., there were no more passenger jeepneys along the Porac-Guagua route as well as the Porac-Dinalupihan route.
There were few jeepneys along the busy Jose Abad Santos Avenue and by 9:00 a.m., fewer were seen taking passengers to the City of San Fernando.
Meanwhile, Anakpawis partylist Representative Ariel Casilao said government should instead support the mass transport sector especially the drivers.
Casilao has proposed for the development of a locally-made engine which will spare drivers from the high cost of imported parts. Local assemblers will also be encouraged and supported for them to manufacture vehicles “that will pass set standards for safety and the environment.”
This initiative, he said, will also promote employment to the sector.
Casilao said government should repeal the Oil Deregulation Law which perpetuates the unabated increase of petroleum products which affects drivers.
The high cost of fuel compels drivers to compete for passengers which is characteristic in the current traffic scenario.
Government instead should take-over private roads as alternative routes for private vehicles to ease traffic on major thoroughfares, he said.
He added government should instead ensure the living income levels for drivers and prohibit exploitative boundary-system.
It could even establish a transport cooperative that is subsidized.
“The public utility vehicle modernization program is none other than corporatization of the public transport sector that will benefit foreign monopoly automotive corporations, big business corporations and their lackey transport groups,” Casilao said in a statement.
The Department of Finance reported that the program will cost P417 billion for the next five years, including the P8 billion subsidy for the purchase of PUVs and P3.9 billion for the Office of Transport Cooperatives.
“We would rather recommend that this huge budget be used in supporting the local mass transport sector, than simply be drained as profits of big automotive companies, in this method, massive displacement of drivers, mechanics and workers of integral industries will be avoided,” Casilao said.