More strikes vowed after Palace’s refusal to junk phase-out scheme

We, jeepney drivers, operators and commuters strongly condemn Malacañang’s announcement that the government will push through with its anti-poor phase-out scheme amidst the strong rejection of the transport sector, as proven by the 90 per cent participation in our two-day nationwide transport strike. This only forces us to hold more strikes in the next months until the government’s phase-out scheme is junked.

In light of the government’s rejection of our legitimate demands and their desperate moves to harass us with intrigues and threaten us with trumped-up charges, allow us to clarify some points:

First of all, the government has no mass transport modernization plan. The Department of Transportation’s Omnibus Franchising Guidelines is not a modernization program but a marketing campaign for Toyota, Mitsubishi, the Chrysler-owned Comet E-jeep and other imported vehicles. They are forcing us to buy new units we can’t afford and, using the Filipino people’s taxes, to owe debts we can never repay.

What this government have is a scheme to completely hand-over our country’s mass transport system to the monopoly control of Duterte’s cronies and campaign funders, the Ayalas, the Pangilinans, the Aboitizes and the Cojuangcos, under his Build-Build-Build program. These oligarchs who now hold contracts for the “PUV modernization” through the automated fare collection system, the fleet management scheme and other PUV based infrastructure projects for the OFG, are the same oligarchs that has been awarded contracts for the privatization of other vital public utilities and services under the Build-Build-Build program.

Duterte’s phase-out would result in massive job loss among jeepney drivers and small operators. For commuters, it means an increase in the minimum fare to at least 20 pesos with deregulated succeeding fare hikes and greater burdensome taxes as the government plans to fund the phase-out scheme through Duterte’s Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Act (TRAIN).

We reiterate that we are for modernization. In fact, PISTON sought a dialogue with President Duterte last July 18 in Malacañang to present our alternative to the jeepney phase-out scheme and our proposal for the modernization and nationalization of our mass transport system. However, Duterte personally rejected our request and instead told us hold a two-month strike first and that he would give us permit.

It is evident that the Duterte government has no intention of heeding the demand of the public transport sector and the riding public. Instead he is hell-bent on ridding us of our livelihood and burdening our commuters and tax payers to favor the interests of Duterte’s big business cronies and foreign auto industry giants.

With this, we conclude our two-day nationwide strike by announcing that we are geared to hold a bigger and more powerful transport strike and people’s protest in the next months. We will not be intimidated by this government’s threats to cancel our franchises and to file trumped-up charges against our leaders. We have nothing left to lose, and only our livelihood and future to gain. ###