What you need to know about the nationwide #TransportStrike in the Philippines

Features Philippines Oct 27, 2017 at 3:32 pm

#transportstrikeinPH4By Ysh Cabana

The jeepney, actually a converted US military jeep, has been one of the major means of transportation in the country since the end of World War II. They have also become a ubiquitous symbol of Philippine culture. Jeepneys now make up an estimated 40 percent of public utility vehicles in the Philippines and travel along fixed routes between cities and towns, periodically picking passengers up either at designated stops, or wherever along the way.

Who are the players?

The strike is spearheaded by PISTON (the national demoratic mass organization of jeepney drivers and operators) and KMU (Kilusang Mayo Uno or May 1 Movement) labour union group. Together with other commuter groups, they form the No to Jeepney Phaseout coalition. On the other hand is the Department of Transportation and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board.

Who are affected by the strike?

In 2016, the Department of Transportation and Communications imposed an age limit on jeepneys of 15 years of age, with older jeepneys proposed to be replaced by modern jeepneys by 2020. Around 180,000 units will be affected by the phaseout, according to the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board.

Over 600,000 jeepney drivers and 250,000 small jeepney operators will be affected by the program, according to Piston president George San Mateo. There are estimated 10 million daily riders.

Piston estimated a 90 percent transport stoppage in many routes in Metro Manila. The paralysis was big if not bigger in some provinces such as in Pampanga, Rizal, Bicol, Baguio City, Bulacan, GMA Cavite, Butuan City, Surigao City, Davao, Nueva Vizcaya, and various routes in Metro Manila.

Sticking points

San Mateo said they are for modernization but they are not in favor of the “pro-business scheme” behind the current government plan.

Environmental impact. In Manila, motor vehicles are thought to be responsible for around 80% of the air pollution, putting its inhabitants at heightened risk of stroke, heart disease, cancer and asthma. There are already 2.2 million registered vehicles on the capital’s road and jeepneys comprise only 2% of the share. The standoff highlights the challenge the country faces as it tries to cut emissions 70 per cent by 2030 as part of a global push to move away from fossil fuels. Foreign businesses are expected to benefit from the program since they will be the ones bringing in the solar- or electric-powered jeepneys.

Fare adjustment. As the conventional jeepneys will be replaced, fare collection will be maintained through the private sector with contactless-based smart card technology. The union claims that fares would likely increase as the current individual jeepney ownership will be dismantled in favor of corporations, specifically the AF Payments Inc., the Ayala-Metro Pacific consortium behind beep card,  as the country’s transportation industry remains import-dependent.

#transportstrikeinPH1Route rationalization. New franchising rule will only allow corporations or cooperatives with a fleet of 15 vehicles and up to apply for new routes. It restricts jeepneys and other small-capacity vehicles on major roads.

Project management. Instead of the current “boundary” or quota system, drivers will be salaried workers of these corporate fleet managers, with benefits as workers, according to the government. Piston argues that there are no guarantee that older drivers, who may have lesser chances of meeting education and age requirement of fleet managers, will be absorbed by the proposed system.

Finance schemes. The government is planning to use public money to subsidize foreign car manufacturers to facilitate their entry to car assembly industry. The electric jeepney and Euro-4 compliant jeepneys will cost around P1.2 to P1.6 million (Canadian $30,000 to 40,000) . With the planned replacement of 250,000 conventional jeepneys, it is a market of Php300 billion (CAD 7 billion). Loans will be set up as part of their re-vamp efforts. Generally, they will need to pay Land Bank P800 (CAD 20) a day for 7 years. Transport groups also worried about the six percent interest on the loans.

San Mateo said they have always been for modernization of the country’s mass transportation system. They presented their proposed ‘people-centered’ jeepney modernization to President Duterte in a dialogue in Malacañang last July 18 to no avail. The nationwide transport strike has prompted Malacañang to suspend classes and government work.

What’s next?

No negotiations are being scheduled. Longer monthly strikes are planned should President Rodrigo Duterte refuse to meet them and other civil groups protesting against the jeepney modernization program. Progressive organizations with the National Democratic Movement continue to push for better mass transport system, one that is state-run and serves industrial development.

“Modernization is acceptable and must be supported when the people’s rights and welfare is at the center of any program,” says Daisy Arago, Executive Director of Center for Trade Union and Human Rights.

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References:

• What is the Piston group?

http://cnnphilippines.com/videos/2017/10/16/What-is-the-Piston-group.html

• Here’s What’s in Store for the Jeepney Modernization Program

https://www.carmudi.com.ph/journal/heres-whats-in-store-for-the-jeepney-modernization-program/

• Can electric jeepneys ease Manila’s traffic crisis?

https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2016/jun/03/carmageddon-manila-philippines-electric-jeepney-traffic

• Unemployment, debt from jeepney modernization program worry transport groups

http://cnnphilippines.com/news/2017/10/19/dotr-ltfrb-jeepney-modernization-program-debt-unemployment.html

• Corporate Capture in Jeepney “Modernization”

http://ibon.org/2017/10/corporate-capture-in-jeepney-modernization/

• Transport strike succeeds

http://bulatlat.com/main/2017/10/17/transport-strike-succeeds-day-2-still-people-centered-jeepney-modernization/