Jeepneys, UV express groups warn of nationwide strike vs. franchise consolidation

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 27) — Traditional jeepneys and UV Express operators and drivers will go on a week-long, nationwide strike on March 6 if authorities do not heed their call to suspend the mandatory consolidation of their franchises, transport group Manibela announced Monday.

"Sa taning ng aming hanapbuhay, isang linggong tigil pasada magmula March 6. Kung hindi babawiin ng LTFRB (Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board), isang linggong tigil pasada nationwide, lalong-lalo na sa NCR (National Capital Region)," Manibela chairperson Mar Valbuena said in a press conference.

[Translation: At the cost of our livelihood, we will halt our operations starting March 6. If LTFRB will not withdraw its memorandum, we will conduct a week-long transportation strike nationwide, especially in NCR.]

Transportation (DOTr) Secretary Jaime Bautista, meanwhile, appealed to transport groups to sit down with the government to clarify issues.

He proposed a dialogue among the transport operators and representatives of the DOTr and LTFRB. He said he instructed the undersecretary for road sector to coordinate with stakeholders.

In an interview with CNN Philippines Traffic Center, Valbuena said the jeepney modernization program must be humane and reasonable, and the vehicles should be made locally.

"Basta po makatao yung presyo ng modern jeepney na inaalok sa atin," Valbuena said. "Dapat ito rin ay makatwiran at sariling atin."

[Translation: The price of a modern jeepney should be affordable. It should also be reasonable and should be made locally.]

"Halos 100% na ang tinaas ng presyo ng modernized mini bus. Hirap na hirap itong hulugan. 'Yung iba may mga demand letters na dahil hindi makabayad," he added.

[Translation: The price of modernized mini buses have increased at 100%. It is difficult to pay in installment. Some even received demand letters as they cannot pay their loans.]

Under LTFRB Circular No. 2023-013, traditional jeepney, UV Express and transportation network vehicle service drivers and operators are required to consolidate or join existing cooperatives after March 31 to continue their operations until June 30.

READ: LTFRB moves deadline for traditional jeepney consolidation to June

However, transport groups called for the suspension of the mandatory consolidation of jeepney franchises since operators and drivers cannot comply with the directive.

Valbuena said the transport strike will include all routes in Metro Manila, while those in Central Luzon, Bicol and Calabarzon and Bacolod, Iloilo, Davao and Cagayan de Oro will also join the protest.

He added that about 40,000 traditional jeepneys and UV Express units from Metro Manila will join the transport strike.

"Kung hindi namin ito ipaglalaban, mas mahaba yung pagdurusa na sasapitin ng atin mga mananakay," Valbuena said. "Kung hindi po namin ito gagawin, taon ang bibilangin bago maka-recover na totally may masakyan."

[Translation: If we do not fight for it, our commuters will suffer longer. If we do not fight for it, it will take years before we can recover and have public transportation.]

Valbeuna also said multicabs, and about 100,000 traditional jeepneys and UV Express units outside Metro Manila will join the transport strike.

The LTFRB last week clarified that traditional jeepneys will still be allowed to ply the road if they are able to comply with the modernization requirement to consolidate until June 30.

READ: LTFRB clarifies: Traditional jeeps can still operate if they comply with June 30 consolidation deadline

The jeepney modernization program was one of the priority programs of the Duterte administration to solve the transportation demand in the country.