Transport group cancels two-day strike, promises bigger strike in January
by Philip Jamilla
(UPDATED Dec. 4, 12:50 a.m. ) Transport groups Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (PISTON) and No to Jeepney Phaseout Coalition called off their strike set tomorrow, Dec. 4 and on Tuesday, Dec. 5.
In a press briefing earlier today, Dec. 3, PISTON National President George San Mateo stated that they decided to cancel the strike “nang sa gayon [ay] mabigyan din, maharap namin yung public hearing sa December 7.”
Yesterday, Sen. Grace Poe, chair of the Senate Committee on Public Services, appealed for the group to cancel the strike, vowing to file a resolution tomorrow to call for the said hearing on Thursday for concerned parties to discuss the proposed jeepney modernization program.
“I understand that certain issues in the modernization program still need to be carefully studied and threshed out with the concerned government agencies. We hope this can be done during the committee hearing,” Poe said.
In a statement released today, the senator welcomed the group’s decision, saying: “Issues can be better discussed and resolved when sobriety and judiciousness are exercised, in pursuit of the highest public good.”
Despite Thursday’s hearing, San Mateo still hopes that the modernization program will not push through, claiming “Ito ay isang malaking marketing program [ng] mga mamahaling sasakyan na nais nilang ipilit sa ‘tin.”
PISTON will instead conduct a transport caravan to UST tomorrow and march with other militant groups from UST to Mendiola, where they will hold a vigil in preparation for Thursday’s hearing.
San Mateo also promised that PISTON and No to Jeepney Phaseout Coalition will stage a bigger transport strike January next year, in time for the government’s rollout of modernized jeepneys.
Nonetheless, the Land Transportation Franchising Regulatory Board (LTFRB) will continue to monitor PISTON’s terminals and routes tomorrow morning.
“We will not rely on the [press conference]. We cannot afford surprises for the riding public,” LTFRB board member Atty. Aileen Lizada said.
The groups recently led a nationwide transport strike last Oct. 16 and 17 in protest of the jeepney modernization program, prompting the Malacañang to suspend classes and government work nationwide on both days.
The proposed jeepney modernization program aims to phase out 15-year old units and replace them with “more convenient, more comfortable, and environment-friendly” units, according to the Department of Transportation.
Changes in the public transport franchising system, routes, and training for drivers are also eyed by the program.
Nonetheless, several transport groups have slammed the program as “anti-poor,” saying that drivers cannot afford the costly price tag of the new units, and that the program will lead to loss of jobs for drivers and operators, as well as higher fares for commuters.