MANILA, Philippines – Thousands of drivers and operators of jeepneys have stopped plying their routes, Monday, to participate in a massive transport strike organized by transport group Piston.
The transport group held various protests in different areas across the country to express their opposition to the government’s plan of replacing old passenger jeepney units with modern ones.
Some members of the group were reported to have attempted to block other jeepney drivers to urge them to participate in the transport strike.
The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) immediately responded and went to areas with such incidents.
“It’s not right that you will force them to stop their operations. Even in Aurora, they were blocking the roads with their flags. It’s like they were doing checkpoints on the middle of the road. If you say freedom of speech, a driver also has a freedom to earn their living. You should not coerce them, or threaten them,” LTFRB spokesperson Atty. Aileen Lizada said.
Based on the initial report of Piston, its nationwide transport strike was able to paralyze 90% of jeepney transport in the country.
However, the LTFRB contradicted Piston’s figures, noting that of the 10-million jeepney passengers daily, only 1,000 have been affected by the strike.
Piston insists it will continue to hold more protests if the government will still refuse to listen to their demands.
The group also claims it will never be terrified, although the government suspends all classes and work in the entire country every time they hold a massive transport strike.
“Until they revise the framework, we will not withdraw… they thought we will soon be disinclined to hold protests. But we became more persistent in conducting this,” Piston president, George San Mateo said.
Meanwhile, LTFRB has filed a complaint before the Quezon City Prosecutors Office against San Mateo over the group’s first transport strike last February.
“In this, we will consult the board, and if need be to file another criminal case against George San Mateo. If they say they are against modernization, why do legit transport groups and leaders are not part of their protest? Many of Piston’s members now are from the labor sector,” Lizada said.
Malacañang, meanwhile, said it will not be moved by the series of protests and vows to continue the implementation of the Jeepney Modernization Program.
Abella assured that the government has prepared contingency plans to assist commuters affected by the two-day nationwide transport strike. – Joan Nano | UNTV News & Rescue