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Transport group Manibela warns of bigger strike

MANILA, Philippines, December 2 ------ Drivers and operators are preparing for a bigger strike as Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista announced that the Dec. 31 consolidation deadline for the public utility vehicle modernization program is non-negotiable.

In an interview with The STAR on Monday, Transport group Manibela president Mar Valbuena said that a joint transport strike with another transport group, Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide, is possible, adding that he is constantly communicating with PISTON president Mody Floranda. “Let’s wait (for the possible joint transport strike) as it is possible that other transport groups will join not only PISTON,” Valbuena said. He also criticized the position of Bautista to not extend the Dec. 31 deadline for public utility jeepneys (PUJs). “If they will not renew us, what will be the alternative for commuters who will be affected by the phaseout (of traditional jeepneys)? He should answer that,” Valbuena added.

He also said the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and Land Transportation Franchising Regulatory Board (LTFRB) should also ask passengers on the effect of the phaseout to commuters. “Last Friday, members (of Manibela) told me that they plan to go to their respective provinces and stop plying amid the stress they experienced because of the threat of DOTr and the LTFRB,” Valbuena said.

Valbuena added that he is still convincing the members of Manibela not to proceed with their plan to stop their jeepney operation. “According to them, they are tired. They said that the government can continue offering free rides to affected passengers as the officials always belittled our transport strike,” he said, referring to the free rides offered by concerned agencies during the three-day transport strike of PISTON as well as the three-day transport strike of Manibela.

In a separate interview, Floranda also condemned Bautista over the non-negotiable Dec. 31 deadline for the phaseout of traditional jeepneys as he warned that passengers and the economy will also suffer. He explained that at least 600,000 PUJs will be affected compared to only 9,813 modernized jeepneys now operating in the country. Floranda called on President Marcos to act on the ultimatum set by the DOTr and LTFRB, adding that a majority of PUJs are traditional jeepneys.

According to Floranda, transport groups are not against the modernization of PUJs, but insisted the government should develop its mass transportation instead of importing mini buses from China. He added that aside from the 900,000 drivers and operators who will be displaced by the phaseout, the small auto supply, vulcanizing shops, eateries will close shop if traditional jeepneys are removed.



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