MANILA - Commuters scrambled for alternative modes of transport during rush hour on Monday, as several jeepney groups stopped plying roads in a bid to talk with President Rodrigo Duterte and contest his order to modernize their units.
Drivers cannot afford new jeepney models worth around P2.5 million and will not qualify for government loans, one requirement for which is a vast depot, said Alliance of Concerned Transport Organizations (ACTO) president Efren De Luna.
"Hindi po tayo tumututol sa PUV modernization. Ang tinutulan po natin ay iyong uri po ng requirement doon na talaga pong walang kahahantungan at talaga pong papunta sa phaseout sa aming maliliit na operator," De Luna told radio DZMM.
(We are not against PUV modernization. What we are protesting are the requirements that will lead nowhere but the phaseout of small operators like us.)
"Kailangan po d'yan, sa office po ng Pangulo [kami makipag-usap] dahil para wala po iyong tinatawag nating kunyari at meeting, kukuhanin lang ang attendance pero wala namang mangyayari," he added.
(We need to talk with the Office of the President because otherwise, it would just be fake meetings where only the attendance will be taken but nothing will happen.)
About half of transport group Piston's members have joined the strike around 7 a.m., said its president, Modi Floranda. Jeepney group Stop and Go and another group in Central Luzon are also joining the protest, said De Luna.
GOVT 'WON'T BE COWED' - PALACE
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo, however, said the modernization of the public transport system "is long overdue."
"The Duterte administration will not be intimated nor cowed by threats of protests and strikes coming from those who only think of their own parochial interest," he said in a statement.
He also cautioned drivers to "assemble peacefully and not perform acts of violence that will endanger the safety of the general public, as the government will enforce pertinent laws, rules and regulations, including the cancellation of their privileges, such as franchises or certificates of public convenience."
Jeepney drivers will converge in several areas like Monumento, Novaliches and Cubao in Quezon City, Alabang in Muntinlupa, Bagumbayan in Taguig, and Bacoor, Cavite, said Piston.
The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, meanwhile, claimed the strike was "not successful."
"As early as 8:30 in the morning naibalik sa normal situation ang mga areas na may mga stranded passengers," reasoned MMDA Spokesperson Celine Pialago.
(The situation in areas where there were stranded passengers returned to normal as early as 8:30 in the morning.)
Several areas have suspended Monday's classes due to the transport strike, while some local governments like Pasig, Manila and Marikina offered free rides.
WAITING FOR THE BUS
Along Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City, scores of commuters had to wait for around an hour before they could ride packed buses and vans.
Few jeepneys skipped the transport strike, with 2 or more passengers clinging onto their rears.
"'Pag ganun na sama-sama sila (drivers sa strike), mahihirapan kami. Late na, paano makakapasok?" said pawnshop employee Sarah Mondragon.
(The commuters will suffer when they all go on strikes together. It's already late, how can we go to work?)
"Abala. Abala siya," added fellow commuter Bobby Cinco.
(It's a hassle.)
- With a report from Anjo Bagaoisan, ABS-CBN News