Transport groups in Central Luzon and key cities in Visayas are striking today over a government mandate they replace their older, polluting vehicles, an action the government preemptively shrugged off.
Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said yesterday that the government wasn’t fazed by the planned strike by a number of groups and transportation coalitions, saying vehicle modernization was “long overdue.”
Panelo said they would “not be intimidated nor cowed by threats of protests and strikes coming from those who only think of their own parochial interests,” adding that “the modernization of the public transport is long overdue,” in Sunday’s statement.
Pushback began last year against the public vehicle modernization program, which calls for operators to replace old vehicles – including Manila’s iconic, smoke-belching jeepneys – with those that comply with emission standards by July 2020. Drivers and operators insist they can’t afford the proposed replacement vehicles, each of which costs up to PHP1.9 million (US$38,000).
In response, the transportation department threatened to revoke the franchises of operators and drivers joining today’s strike, GMA News reported. Jun Magno, president of the Stop and Go coalition, which is among those refusing to work today, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that there has been no clear communication with government.
“Instead of talking to us, they are threatening us with the removal of our franchises,” Magno said, “The way I see it, they’ll be taking away our franchises on July 1 anyway. What’s the difference?”
Magno added that the transportation department is using environmental concerns as a front to phase out small operators in favor of large corporations.
In anticipation of major public inconvenience, at least 12 cities in Metro Manila, and several key areas in Central Luzon and Visayas, have suspended school and some local government offices. The Supreme Court has also suspended office work in Manila’s courts.
Panelo, in his Sunday statement, said that relevant agencies have been asked to assist commuters affected by the work stoppage.
Around three million jeepney-riders in Metro Manila alone are expected to be inconvenienced by the strike, and 2,000 Manila van operators are estimated to have walked off the job. In Visayas, up to 95% of Negros Occidental commuters were expected to be affected by the strike, Philippine Star reported.
Filipinos already faced a miserable crunch getting to and from work, as Taguig City commuters demonstrated earlier this month by forcing their way aboard a bus through its windows.
Edison Nebrija, a top Metro Manila traffic official, told the Inquirer that 106 buses and two military trucks were scheduled to service passengers in nine key areas in Metro Manila, using new vehicles that comply with the emission standards.
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