Piston cancels transport strike

(UPDATED) -- Heeding the call of Senator Grace Poe, transport group Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (Piston) has called off the two-day nationwide transport strike set for Monday and Tuesday, December 4 and 5.

At a press conference, Piston head George Mateo said that instead of a transport strike, Piston will stage a caravan protest against the jeepney phaseout program on Monday, December 4, from Quezon City to Mendiola.

Mateo said their decision was prompted by Senator Poe's appeal to cancel their transport strike and instead sit down with the senators in a Senate hearing on Thursday, December 7, on the proposed jeepney modernization program.

On Saturday, Poe said she will file a resolution urging the Senate committee on public services to meet with the transport agencies opposing the government's planned jeepney phaseout.

The senator said she understands that there are issues in the program that still needs to be examined by the transportation sector.

In a statement on Sunday, December 3, Poe reiterated her vow to look into the modernization program.

"As I have committed, I will call a hearing to discuss with all the stakeholders issues confronting the transport sector, including the planned jeepney modernization program with the view of addressing their concerns," she said.

"Isaalang-alang natin ang kapakanan ng bawat isa - jeepney driver, operator, mananakay at karaniwang mamamayan - tungo sa paghahanap ng solusyon (We shall consider the plight of everyone - jeepney driver, operator, commuters and ordinary citizens - in our quest for a solution)," she added.

In San Fernando City, Pampanga, local Piston spokesperson Allan Bonifacio confirmed that they have called off their planned transport strike.

“Ipinagpapaliban na po muna natin ang nakaplanong transport strike dito sa Pampanga upang salubungin ang ipinakiusap ni Senator Poe na magpapatawag ng Senate hearing sa December 7 hinggil sa pekeng modernisasyon ng pampublikong transportasyon na magdudulot ng phaseout sa mga jeepney. Ito ay indikasyon ng tagumpay ng nagkakaisang tsuper at opereytor sa buong bansa na buong lakas na tumututol sa nasabing programa (We have called off the planned transport strike here in Pampanga to heed the request of Senator Poe, who said she will call for a hearing on December 7 on the jeepney modernization program. This shows that our protests against the program have succeeded),” Bonifacio said.

Bonifacio said, however, that Piston's protest activity and program set for Monday will push through at 10 a.m. under the San Fernando overpass at the Dolores junction in Pampanga.

The rally will be spearheaded by the Makabayang Organisasyon ng mga Tsuper at Opereytor (MOTOr), Piston-GL, No To Jeepney Phaseout Coalition Pampanga, and Workers Alliance in Region 3 (WAR 3) to show the unity of Pampanga jeepney drivers and operators with the workers who are also opposing the "pro-capitalism" program of the national government.

“Hindi po titigil sa strike lamang ang aming mga aktibidades. Tuloy pa din ang aming kilos protesta para tuluy-tuloy na iparating sa gobyerno ang aming pagtutol sa programang hindi lamang peperwisyo sa aming nga driver at operator, kundi maging sa mga simpleng manggagawang Filipino (Our protest activity will continue to dramatize our opposition to the modernization program, which will affect not only the drivers and operators but also the Filipino workers),” Bonifacio said.

Meanwhile, the class suspension earlier announced by Mayor Dante Torres in Guagua in anticipation of the transport strike has been recalled, the Philippine Information Agency Region III reported on its Facebook page.

In Davao City, Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) spokesperson Aileen Lizada said in a text message that despite the pronouncement of Piston, they will continue their monitoring.

She said Piston's leaders might change their minds on Monday. Lizada said they could not afford “surprises” that might cause inconvenience to the riding public.

In an interview over TV, Lizada said 31 government vehicles and 22 private buses will still be on standby in Metro Manila.

Earlier, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio said they have already agreed with the LTFRB to exempt the city from the modernization program next year as the city because a high priority bus system (HPBS) is already in the pipeline.

The public utility vehicle (PUV) modernization program, which was officially launched by the Department of Transportation (DOTr) on June 19, aims to phase out jeepneys that are 15 years and older and replace them with environment-friendly and efficiently driven transport systems.

Transportation groups, however, rejected the program, saying it was “anti-poor” since 600,000 drivers and 200,000 operators were expected to be affected.

Last October, Piston led a two-day strike prompting Malacañang to suspend work and classes nationwide. (SunStar Philippines with reports from Princess Clea Arcellaz of SunStar Pampanga and Juliet Revita of SunStar Davao)
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