Transport group: Scrapping jeepney consolidation memo only way to prevent strike

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 27) — A transport group on Tuesday said scrapping the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board’s (LFTRB) memorandum circular on the consolidation of jeepney franchise holders is the only way to prevent the week-long transport strike.

Manibela chairperson Mar Valbuena told CNN Philippines’ The Source the group remains open to dialogue with government officials to discuss concerns on the implementation of the public utility vehicle modernization program, but on one condition.

Ang kondisyon po, i-scrap po muna nila ‘yung memorandum circular bago kami mag-usap,” Valbuena said.

[Translation: The condition is, they should first scrap the memorandum circular before we conduct the dialogue.]

Under LTFRB Memorandum Circular No. 2023-013, traditional jeepney drivers and operators are required to join a cooperative or form a corporation before the deadline to extend the validity of their provisional authority or franchise.

The agency said operators and drivers can still join jeepney routes that already have a cooperative or corporation, and routes that have pending applications for their formation until June 30. Otherwise, they will not be able to operate anymore.

Valbuena said around 100,000 operators and drivers of traditional jeepneys and UV Express are expected to join the strike from March 6 to 12.

Around 40,000 operators and drivers are in the National Capital Region alone. The others are in Ilocos, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, Bicol, Davao, Bacolod, Iloilo, and Cagayan de Oro.

Another transport group Piston on Tuesday said it is ready to support the planned strike.

Piston national president Mody Floranda explained that mandating operators and drivers to consolidate is “wrong, deceitful, and coercive” as it deprives them of their rights and privileges as individual franchise holders.

Moreover, only big corporations with single consolidated franchises have the financial capacity to comply with the guidelines set by authorities, he added.

National Center for Commuters Safety and Protection chairperson Elvira Medina said around 8 million commuters in Metro Manila will be affected by the transport strike.

Valbuena asked commuters to understand the situation of traditional jeepney operators and drivers who will possibly lose their livelihood if the mandatory consolidation will push through.

Katulad po namin na kinaya po namin noong panahon ng pandemic na wala po kaming hanapbuhay at hindi po kami nakaka-biyahe, siguro po kakayanin din po ng ating mga commuters sa loob po ng isang linggo na mag-sakripisyo rin para po sa mas mahabang pagse-serbisyo po namin sa kanila,” he said.

[Translation: Just like us who survived the pandemic even if our livelihood was affected, perhaps the commuters will also be able to sacrifice for just one week so we can serve them longer.]

Move Metro Manila also expressed its support for the transport strike.

"Kahit mahihirapan kami naiintindihan namin kung bakit nila ginagawa 'yon [strike]," Mara Mavis, a member of the commuter group said.

[Translation: Even though we will find it difficult, we understand why they are holding the strike.]

However, transport groups Alliance of Concerned Transport Organization (ACTO) and Pasang Masda said they will not join the strike.

ACTO president Liberty de Luna said they will instead work on how to help jeepney operators join or form cooperatives.

Speaking to CNN Philippines Traffic Center, Pasang Masda president Obet Martin said he believes solutions can be found through a dialogue.

"Naniniwala ako na itong mga problema ay mapag-uusapan nang maayos nang wala na tayong pipinsalain na mga manaakay at negosyo ng ating mga mananakay," Martin said.

[Translation: I believe these problems can be discussed accordingly, where commuters and their businesses will not be affected.]

Valbuena had claimed the LTFRB did not consult stakeholders when the agency issued the memorandum circular.

He pointed out that the deadline is not enough for traditional jeepney operators and drivers to comply with the requirements for the public utility vehicle modernization program.

He noted that there were efforts from transport groups to comply, but their applications remain pending since LTFRB's processing of documents takes two to three months.

In terms of cost, Valbuena said the membership fee alone, which ranges from ₱100,000 to ₱200,000, is already a burden for the stakeholders.

However, Martin denied that cooperatives collect hefty membership fees.

"Wala po akong nakikitang cooperative na humihingi ng ₱100,000 to ₱200,000. Kung meron man ganoong cooperatives, mali ang kanilang pamamalakad," he said.

[Translation: I have not seen cooperatives collecting ₱100,000 to ₱200,000. If there's any cooperatives doing so, their system is wrong.]

For Manibela, the LTFRB should just recognize the existing cooperatives instead of requiring those who have yet to consolidate to join the groups who were able to comply.

Instead of sourcing modernized units from foreign manufacturers, the government should just obtain supply from local companies since they will be cheaper, Valbuena added.

Martin, meanwhile, reiterated the call for government aid in acquiring modern jeepney units.

"Makikipag-ugnayan pa rin kami sa pamahalaan na matulungan tayo na maibaba ang presyo ng ating mga modern vehicles sapagkat medyo kataas ang presyo nito," Martin said.

[Translation: We will coordinate with the government in order to aid us in making the modern vehicles affordable, because its price is a bit steep.]

CNN Philippines correspondent Crissy Dimatulac and digital producer Mariel Celine Serquiña contributed to this article.