The government has formed a special team and is preparing contingency plans to address problems that would arise from the planned transport strike on Monday, in protest of the reported phaseout of old public utility jeepneys.
The Metro Manila Development Authority, one of the government agencies included in the Quick Response Team, will reactivate its “Oplan Libreng Sakay” operation with the deployment of military trucks and rescue vehicles to pick up stranded passengers along major thoroughfares in the National Capital Region during the protest.
MMDA acting chairman Thomas Orbos also ordered his men to suspend the implementation of the Unified Vehicular Volume Reduction Program, or the number coding scheme, but for public utility vehicles only in connection with the strike.
“There will be no number coding so that buses and other public utility vehicles that would not join the strike can accommodate more passengers,” said Orbos.
For the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board, the agency asked operators of UV Express vehicles and city, provincial and inter-regional buses to assist the government in transporting passengers to be affected by the strike.
Other government agencies will dispatch their vehicles and other assets to provide free transportation to stranded passengers, while 100 private buses would charge minimal fares.
Several public transport groups planned the Feb. 27 strike to voice their opposition to the proposed phasing out of all public utility vehicles 15 years and older by the Department of Transportation.
The groups are also protesting the planned excise tax on petroleum products and the oil deregulation law, which could increase the price of crude oil by P6 by March 15.
Among those who will join the protest in Metro Manila include members of the Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operators Nationwide or PISTON, No to Jeepney Phase Out Coalition, and the Stop and Go Coalition.
The United Negros Drivers and Operators Center will also conduct a “people’s strike” on Monday. UNDOC secretary general Diego Malacad said they are protesting the proposed phase-out of old jeepneys being pushed by Transportation Secretary Arturo Tugade.
He said Tugade submitted a position paper to Senator Grace Poe regarding the proposal because they could not declare emergency powers to answer the traffic woes in Metro Manila alone, as it has to be implemented nationwide.
“Small operators and stakeholders will be affected by this phaseout,” Malacad said.
He also said, instead of phasing out old vehicles, the government should push for vehicle rehabilitation.
Other transport groups are poised to join the protest in Cagayan and Isabela provinces in the Cagayan Valley region; Metro Baguio; Laguna, Bulacan, Cavite and Rizal; Sorsogon, Albay and Camarines Sur in the Bicol region; Iloilo, Aklan, Capiz, Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental, Cebu and Leyte in the Visayas; Cagayan de Oro City and Bukidnon province in Northern Mindanao; and General Santos City and the Socksargen region.
In Metro Manila, the strike will begin at 6 a.m. as drivers, operators and their supporters will mobilize and gather at Monumento in Caloocan City; the Alabang City terminal in Muntinlupa City; the corner of Airport Road and Quirino Avanue and along Roxas Boulevard service road in Baclaran; Anda Circle; the corner of Pedro Gil and Agoncillo St.; Aurora Boulevard in Cubao; the intersection of Bonifacio and Shoe Avenues in Marikina; Philcoa; in front of Nova Mall in Novaliches; and Taytay.
A caravan from Quezon City to Manila will also be held at the Welcome Rotunda along España Street.
Lawyer Aileen Lizada, a board member of LTFRB, warned that those who will participate in the rally face the cancellation of their franchises.
“Expect show cause orders. Definitely there would be cancellation of franchises and this is part of the terms and conditions as holders of CPC, they cant stop operations as form of protest to any government decision,” she said.
Lizada said the government is finding the right formula to help jeepney drivers and operators for them to be able to acquire the new E-jeeps. “There will be no jeepney phaseout, don’t be fooled by your leaders, this is not true,” she said.
The first transport strike held on Feb. 6 triggered the suspension of afternoon classes in some colleges and universities in Metro Manila.
Under the modernization program, the DOTr will impose a 15-year age limit on public utility jeepneys, as it aims to modernize the fleet of jeepneys plying the roads through low-carbon-emission vehicle technology.
Standards on carbon emission and fleet management and maintenance would also be imposed to ensure passenger safety, and improve ambient air quality.
To address operators’ and drivers’ concern of undue economic burden from having to purchase brand new jeepney units, the government would allow them to apply for loans with the Development Bank of the Philippines.
The DOTr would set up a guarantee fund to secure the loans of the operators and drivers.