By Miguel Gil

STRIKE OUT. A traditional jeepney picks up passengers in Quezon City on Monday (April 29, 2024). Orlando Marquez, Sr., national president of the Liga ng Transportasyon at Operators sa Pilipinas, said the protest against the government modernization program scheduled Monday to Wednesday (May 1) is likely to fizzle out. (PNA photo by Robert Oswald Alfiler)

MANILA – The vast majority of public utility vehicle (PUV) operators and drivers want no part in the transport strike being orchestrated by Piston and Manibela.

The two major groups remain steadfast in their refusal to accept the government’s modernization program for jeepneys.

In an interview on Monday, Orlando Marquez, Sr., national president of the Liga ng Transportasyon at Operators sa Pilipinas (LTOP), said the protest action scheduled April 29 to May 1 is likely to fizzle out like earlier strikes spearheaded by the two transport groups.

He pointed out that the greater part of the transport sector had already accepted the inevitability of the Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP), which calls on operators to upgrade their vehicles and consolidate operations within their approved routes.

“Only those who are benefitting from the old system are resisting consolidation. They make a lot of money from the butao-butao system (illegal terminals) and they realize that they can no longer get away with these illegal practices once operators consolidate,” the LTOP president told the Philippine News Agency.

Marquez said other transport groups, including Pasang Masda, Alliance of Transport Operators and Drivers Association of the Philippines (Altodap), Alliance of Concerned Transport Organization (ACTO), Federation of Jeepney Operators and Drivers Association of the Philippines (Fejodap), and Stop and Go are likewise snubbing the three-day strike.

“We (transport leaders) talked over the weekend and agreed to issue directives to our respective members in every region to stay away from the strike. Members of LTOP and other big transport groups will be plying their routes… it will be business as usual for us all,” he added.

The transport leader emphasized that the Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide (Piston) and Samahang Manibela Mananakay at Nagkaisang Terminal ng Transportasyon (Manibela) combined make up less than 10 percent of the country’s transport sector.

He said they lack the numbers to paralyze public transportation unless they are able to garner the support of bigger groups.

“When you come to think of it, how many members does Manibela have? It is an insignificant transport organization. However, its leadership seems to have political ambitions, thus, they are making a lot of noise,” Marquez said.

He noted that as of late afternoon Monday, it was readily apparent that the strikers failed to paralyze public transportation in Metro Manila and key cities around the country.

No major incidents

The Philippine National Police (PNP), meanwhile, said it has not monitored any untoward incident at the start of the supposed three-day strike.

In a press conference in Camp Crame in Quezon City, PNP spokesperson Col. Jean Fajardo said over 51,000 cops were deployed nationwide to secure rally areas.

He said some groups wrapped up their protest actions as early as noon. 

Fajardo said 1,780 mobility assets were likewise deployed in coordination with the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board and Metropolitan Manila Development Authority while local government units provided mini buses. 

She added that 1,780 patrol vehicles will be utilized for free rides while 2,642 cops for mobile patrol were also dispatched. 

“So far, it was relatively peaceful although we received information about those harassing other drivers who did not join the strike. I would like to take this opportunity also to call on those who are rallying. You have the right to air your sentiments especially those pertaining to the franchise consolidation move but you should also respect the rights of those who opted to make a living and continued rendering services to commuters,” Fajardo added.

The government said the April 30 deadline for franchise consolidation is final. (with Lloyd Caliwan/PNA)