Piston Cebu holds rally, asks for resignation of LTFRB 7 chief

A CEBU-based transport group held a short protest rally in front of the Land Transportation and Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) 7 office on Echavez St., Barangay Lorega San Miguel, Cebu City on Monday, March 6, 2023.

Greg Perez, president of the Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide (Piston) Cebu chapter, told SunStar Cebu that the “peaceful” rally was in response to calls from transport groups in Manila to hold a “transport holiday” from Monday to Friday, March 10, to oppose the national government’s Public Utility Vehicle (PUV) Modernization Program.

Perez assured the public that their members are not joining the five-day transport strike.

Even though he expected only his members to participate in the protest, Perez was surprised that some non-member jeepney drivers and operators joined them.

He estimated that five percent of Cebu’s traditional public utility jeepney (TPUJ) drivers didn’t ply the streets on Monday in support of Piston’s protest.

Piston Cebu claims it has over 300 active members. Before the pandemic, the group had more than 500 active members, Perez added.

Perez reiterated that they want the national government to address their seven-point demand, particularly the suspension of the mandatory franchise consolidation that requires all PUV drivers and operators to join a “consolidated entity” to be allowed to operate.

Failure to join a cooperative or to form a corporation by the given ultimatum of Dec. 31, 2023, individual operators and drivers of TPUJs will not be granted a provisional authority for franchise.

Perez said the country is not ready to modernize TPUJs, citing the high price of units to be used as their replacements which operators cannot afford.

Instead, Perez urged the government to focus on the rehabilitation of TPUJs, compliant to the PUV Modernization Program, by equipping these with Euro-4 engines or an electric engine, CCTV cameras, an automated fare collection system, speed limiters and GPS monitors.

This move will support local manufacturers and lessen the dependency on foreign markets for modern buses, Perez added.

Step down

Perez said their group is also demanding the resignation of LTFRB 7 Director Eduardo Montealto Jr. for allegedly prioritizing huge transportation firms and corporations in the issuance of franchises.

Perez accused Montealto of putting on hold the applications of traditional jeepney operators and creating franchises that did not undergo due process, among other reasons.

SunStar Cebu tried to get Montealto’s on the matter but calls and texts to his cellphone remained unanswered as of press time.

In Manila

Meanwhile, there was no disruption in the transportation system in Metro Manila amid the ongoing strike of several groups to protest the government’s PUV Modernization Program on Monday.

In a statement, the Presidential Communications Office (PCO) said the ongoing transport holiday had little impact, noting that only a “handful” of routes were affected.

“As of 10 a.m., the Edsa Busway Carousel has not been impacted by any transport strike activity, with operations running smoothly with a low passenger volume observed at all stations,” PCO said.

“The Philippine National Police personnel have also facilitated the ferrying of affected passengers from Almar Subdivision in Caloocan going to Quezon City. Authorities are also deploying vehicles to cater to passengers on the Dapitan-Baclaran route,” it added.

The PCO said the government has enough assets to provide free rides as well as personnel to respond to the needs of the commuting public.

Like their counterparts in Cebu, transport groups including Piston and Manibela conducted a picket protest in various areas in the National Capital Region as they launched their week-long transport strike, which called for the suspension of the implementation of the modernization program.

The Malacañang said that while some oppose the modernization plan, which also aims for the security of passengers, many transport groups are in favor of it.

In Metro Manila, 11 big jeepney and UV groups strongly opposed the strike, including the National Federation of Transport Cooperatives, Alliance of Transport Operators’ & Drivers’ Association of the Philippines, Liga ng Transportasyon at Operators sa Pilipinas, Alliance of Concerned Transport Organization, Pasang Masda Jeepney, Federation of Jeepney Operators and Drivers Association of the Philippines, Stop and Go Coalition, Senate Employees Transport Service Cooperative, UV Express National Alliance of the Philippines and Acto Na Corp. (EHP, TPM / SunStar Philippines)