Manibela, Piston declare end of protest after Palace meeting

Transport groups Manibela and PISTON have ended what should have been a week-long nationwide transport strike after a meeting at the Palace on Tuesday.

Public utility vehicles will resume plying their routes today (Wednesday) following a two-day strike.

Manibela head Mar Valbuena and PISTON president Mody Floranda met yesterday with Palace officials, including Communications Secretary Cheloy Garafil, a former chairperson of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board.

“There will be no phaseout of jeepneys. The king of the road will remain,” Valbuena told Manila Standard in an interview.

He said this was based on the directive of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., as relayed by the Palace officials they met at the Office of the Executive Secretary.

“For traditional jeepneys that are still road-worthy, they will remain on the road,” Valbuena said.

He said the Department of Transportation has also assured them that there will be a dialogue on the concerns of UV Express drivers and operators as well.

He said they were “satisfied” with the commitments they secured during the meeting.

The Department of Transportation through the LTFRB extended the deadline for public utility jeepney franchise consolidation from June 30 to Dec. 31.

The DOTr also said it is eyeing an additional budget from the national government to increase the equity subsidy for drivers by P100,000 to help them purchase new e-jeepneys for the PUV modernization program. This would bring the total subsidy to P260,000.

Valbuena earlier took a swipe at Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte for describing their protest action as “communist-inspired.”

“That would just be fine if you want to red-tag us, it is their right to voice (their opinion) but they must have the concrete evidence (to show),” he said.

Valbuena also contradicted government claims that the transport strike had a minimal effect.

He said the first day of the transport strike was able to paralyze Metro Manila; Cebu, Angeles City, Pampanga; Malolos, Bulacan; Dagupan City, Pangasinan, and Sta. Rosa, Laguna.

“It was successful at 80 percent not only here in the National Capital Region but also in the provinces,” he said.

Manibela and other transport groups objected strongly to the phaseout of the traditional jeepneys and the mandatory consolidation of franchises under the government’s public utility vehicle (PUV) modernization program.

On Tuesday, the Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) warned that economic losses may about to more than P1 billion a week if the strike intensifies.

“People are confined to their homes especially students due to lack of transportation while employers take to shuttling their workers, which is an added cost to them,” said ECOP president Sergio Ortiz-Luis, likening it to the pandemic lockdowns.

“It’s very critical that the Department of Transportation (DoTR) address this issue,” he said, noting how disorganized the agency appeared.

He said that even the President admitted that the PUV modernization plan is still lacking finer points, which only strengthens the impression that the initial talks were not well considered.

ECOP said it sympathizes with the jeepney drivers who only depend on driving for their living expenses and called on the government not to limit its perspective on how to manage transportation issues, particularly on the phaseout of jeepneys.

Earlier, President Marcos said that while he sees the need to modernize PUVs, proper program implementation is necessary.