Transport group cancels nationwide strike on Dec. 4-5

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 3) — The transport group protesting the government's jeepney modernization program is calling off its planned two-day nationwide strike.

Pinagkaisahang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (PISTON) president George San Mateo in a press briefing on Sunday said they heeded the call of Senator Grace Poe, who asked the group to talk to the Senate regarding their concerns about the jeepney modernization.

Poe, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Public Services, welcomed the group's decision to cancel the transport strike.

"Issues can be better discussed and resolved when sobriety and judiciousness are exercised, in pursuit of the highest public good," Poe said in a statement, Sunday.

The Senator earlier said she will file a resolution on Monday for an urgent hearing to take place on December 7, Thursday.

Poe said she will invite Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade for the hearing.

"Inaasahan natin na dadalo siya sapagkat mahalaga ang pagdinig na ito at nakasalalay ang kapakanan ng napakarami. Pagkakataon ni Secretary Tugade na ilatag sa madla ang kaniyang mga plano at ipahiwatig ang kanyang malasakit," Poe said in a statement.

[Translation: We are expecting him to come. This hearing is important, it will determine the welfare of the masses. It is Sec. Tugade's chance to lay down his plans.]

San Mateo said he will attend the hearing, hoping the full implementation of the PUV modernization program will be scrapped.

Even with the agreement, San Mateo said they will push through with the rally at Mendiola on Monday, to protest the modernization program, as well as the filing of case against him. The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) has charged San Mateo for violating the Public Service Act after he led a nationwide transport strike in February.

"Sa totoo lang walang modernization program 'yung pamahalaan. Ito ay isang malaking marketing program nitong mga mamahaling sasakyan na nais nilang ipilit satin," San Mateo said.

[Translation: In reality, the government has no modernization program. This is just a marketing program for the expensive vehicles they are imposing upon us.]

But LTFRB Board member Atty. Aileen Lizada said they will continue to monitor all terminals of PISTON and its allied transport or labor groups, as well as the routes involved in the planned strike.

"We will decide tomorrow before noontime if we will proceed monitoring the whole day. We will not rely on the presscon. We cannot afford surprises for the riding public," Lizada said, Sunday.

The supposed strike prompted the cancellation of classes in some areas, including Albay, Camarines Sur, and Guagua, Pampanga.

The local government in Guagua and Camarines Sur took back the announcement on Sunday.

PISTON, along with No to Jeepney Phaseout Coalition, staged a transport strike against the government's jeepney modernization program last October, which prompted the government to suspend classes and government work nationwide.

PISTON wants the government to rehabilitate existing jeepney units instead of replacing with newer, more expensive models.

In a speech in October, President Rodrigo Duterte said the jeepney modernization program will roll out in January, despite opposition from numerous groups.

CNN Philippines' Makoi Popioco and Yvette Morales contributed to this report.