DAVAO CITY — President Rodrigo Duterte suspended classes in all levels, both public and private schools, and government work nationwide as drivers and operators of public utility jeepneys schedule a nationwide strike.
The suspension of work does not include the private sector. The President is giving private employers the discretion whether to suspend work.
This was confirmed by Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar, who, however, said the suspension of classes and government work covers only Monday.
Except for Davao City, the Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operators Nationwide (PISTON) will launch a two-day transport strike to protest the government’s public utility vehicle (PUV) modernization program.
PISTON aimed to express sentiments of the jeepney drivers and operators against the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) Omnibus Franchising Guidelines, which pushes for the modernization of public utility vehicles.
According to PISTON Chairman Charito Junares, a majority of the drivers and operators could not afford to buy the units because it would require them to put up PHP1.2 –1.6 million to own one unit.
He said that if the small jeepneys or the so-called multi-cabs would be deployed to the routes of the tricycles, it could trigger trouble among the drivers.
Manuel “Maning” Duran, chair of the Southeastern Mindanao Diversified Drivers and Operators Cooperative (SEMDDOC), said his group is also joining the jeepney strike.
He said most of the chapter presidents have signified their support to the strike. SEMDDOC has more or less 6,000 members both drivers and operators with 24 routes such as Mintal, Calinan, and Toril.
Duran said many cannot afford the modernization program much more borrow money from the bank to buy the new jeepneys.
He said most operators cannot even afford to replace or rehabilitate their jeepneys. According to Duran, a real modernization program is the Mindanao railway system.
He said the transport strike is their way of expressing their sentiments but they cannot really do anything if the government insists.
Old jeepneys would eventually just fizzle out in the light of more modern transport because the commuters or passengers have become choosy, he said.
Duran was concerned that a driver will lose a one-day income at an average of PHP500 if he will not work.
The government, however, envisions the PUV modernization program to meet safety, energy efficiency, and emission standards in order to enhance commuter convenience.
Under the modernization program, jeepney units that are 15 years old will be replaced with Euro 4 engines or electrically-powered engines with solar panels for roofs. Units will also be equipped with closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras, a GPS navigation system, an Automatic Fare Collection System (AFCS), speed limiters, dashboard cameras, and Wi-Fi.
On Friday, Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio ordered the suspension of classes in all levels in Davao City on Monday. But in anticipation of lack of public utility vehicles during the strike, the city mayor ordered the deployment of buses to cater to stranded commuters, especially the workers.
While she respects the planned transport strike on Monday, Duterte-Carpio enjoined protesters to practice self-restraint in their actions as authorities would not tolerate crimes that would be committed during the strike. Lilian Mellejor/PNA-northboundasia.com