Jeepney strike strands commuters in Metro Manila

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MANILA – A couple had to walk to the hospital to take their baby for a medical checkup, and students had to walk two kilometers from Makati to their school in Pasay City after a morning jeepney strike stranded hundreds of commuters in Metro Manila yesterday.

Requesting anonymity, the mother said she and her husband had no choice but to walk because of their baby’s condition.

Student Maria Bennerdeth Besin, 18, said she and her classmates arrived at their school, Philippine State College of Aeronautics in Pasay City, at around 8:15 a.m. when their first class began at 7:30 a.m.

“It was too hot,” she said. “We have no choice but to endure the heat, otherwise we will be late.”

Their professor was also among the passengers stranded due to the strike, she added.

The Association of Concerned Transport Organizations (ACTO) launched the transportation strike during the morning rush hour yesterday.

ACTO president Efren de Luna said they intentionally held the transportation strike to protest the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB)’s plan to phase out old passenger jeepneys.

Commuters should blame the LTFRB for the strike because it ignored a dialogue with them when they held a protest on Dec. 10, along with presidential aspirant Augusto Syjuco, he added.

Beginning next year, the LTFRB will no longer allow jeepneys 15 years and older to operate, De Luna said.

They are willing to comply with the LTFRB plan as long as the government has a clear process on how the phase-out will be done, he added.

However, Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya said they do not have the final decision yet on the phase-out of old jeepneys, which is part of the government’s modernization program.

Chairman Winston Ginez said the LTFRB only has a working draft of the planned jeepney phase-out.

“This is really premature, much ado about nothing,” he said. “We clarified we are in consultation, no policy yet.”

Massive consultations will be made with all transport groups on when and how the phasing out of old units will be implemented, he added.

Ginez said the franchise of jeepneys of drivers and operators who joined the transportation strike might be canceled if they are positively identified.

The franchise of jeepneys can be canceled if drivers and operators are proven to have joined the strike, he added.

A show cause order would be issued against drivers who joined the strike, Ginez said.

The Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) is opposed to plans to phase out public utility jeepneys.

If the plan pushes through, the 300,000 jeepney drivers will be rendered jobless and operators will lose their source of income, KMU said.

It will also subject jeepney drivers to exploitative conditions under the so-called fleet management scheme, as well as result in higher fares for passengers, who will shoulder the cost of new vehicles, KMU added.

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