By Dominique Gabriel G. Bañaga
A local labor rights group called the government’s public utility vehicle (PUV) modernization program as “anti-poor” and unjust, amid the transport strike in Bacolod City which started yesterday.
Wennie Sancho, secretary-general of the General Alliance of Workers Association (GAWA), said the modernization of the transport sector will further exacerbate and worsen the economic situation.
Sancho said that thousands of workers in the sector are unable to comply with the regulations set under the PUV modernization program.
They can no longer ply their routes, he said.
“Traditional jeepney drivers were shocked to find their franchises were [either] being canceled or modified for being non-compliant with the PUV modernization program,” Sancho said.
“Meanwhile, new franchises and routes are being issued to large corporations which are investing in modern jeepney units and other facilities,” he added.
According to Sancho, transport group Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (PISTON) claimed that the three-year pandemic has affected 500,000 jeepney drivers and 200,000 small jeepney operators.
He stated that they will also be the same group that will be affected by the modernization program.
Sancho added that a modern jeepney unit costs around P2 to 2.5 million, 10 times the cost of a traditional jeepney.
He also pointed out that jeepney units are usually owned by low-income operators or drivers, while taxis and buses are usually operated by large corporations.
The GAWA secretary general said that the government failed to protect the rights and welfare of the workers and commuters due to the unreasonable phase-out of old PUV units.
Earlier, Bacolod Alliance for Commuters, Operators and Drivers Inc. president Rudy Catedral said they will participate in the nationwide transport strike to protest against the government’s PUV modernization program.
Catedral believes that the transport strike will not significantly affect the riding public as some drivers of modernized jeepneys and PUVs would continue operating rather than participate in the strike.
The Department of Transportation (DOTr) had earlier set a deadline on December 31 of this year, for transport groups to comply with the guidelines of the PUV modernization program.
Under the program, old jeepneys will be replaced with modernized vehicles compliant with Euro 4 engines as part of efforts to reduce air pollution.
PUV drivers and operators complained about replacing their vehicles with Euro 4 compliant ones as the cost could reach at least P2 million for only one unit.
The government set a June 30 deadline for the PUV modernization program, but it was later extended following a transport strike in March of this year.
The DOTr said earlier that they will review the 2017 Omnibus Franchising Guidelines./DGB, WDJ