Monday, October 16, 2017

DOTr and LTFRB Statement on Piston's Two-Day Nationwide Strike

The Department of Transportation (DOTr) and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) appeal for patience and understanding to those who may be affected by the two-day transport strike to be launched by Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Operaytor Nationwide (PISTON) from October 16-17. 

The DOTr would also like to express its utmost dismay over PISTON’s refusal to discuss with government their issues on the PUV Modernization Program (PUVMP), and its consistent appeal to public sentiment through false propaganda and misinformation. 

A close survey of organizations backing PISTON would reveal that these are mostly non drivers and/or non operators of public utility vehicles, as shown by PISTON’s open alliance with the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU). Hence, we question PISTON's true motives in staging these protests and demonstrations. How can they hold a legitimate protest when in fact, majority of the protesters do not represent the public transport sector? In PISTON's 36 years of existence, when did they ever agree or give their support to a proposed reform on our public transportation sector? 

These further leave us these questions: Do they [PISTON] really have the higher interest of the riding public and the best interest of jeepney drivers and operators if they oppose each and every program aimed at improving public transportation? Or is PISTON disagreeing just for the sake of disagreement, in order to justify its existence as a militant and leftist group? 

Among the issues raised by PISTON are the alleged lack of consultation in coming up with DOTr Department Order (DO) No. ‎2017-011, which defines the backbone of the PUVMP, and that the PUVMP is anti-poor because of the high-cost of acquiring new units.

On the issue of purported lack of consultation, nothing can be farther from the truth. The DOTr and the LTFRB have conducted numerous consultations and dialogues with various stakeholders, such as public utility vehicle (PUV) operators and drivers across the country, as well as with organized transport groups and local government units. These consultations were organized before, during, and even after DO ‎2017-011 was signed. In fact, in some of the initial regional consultations, PISTON members were present and participated in the discussions. It was only when the PUVMP had already taken shape and gained support from transport groups and cooperatives nationwide that PISTON disengaged with the government and refused to dialogue. Nonetheless, consultations with LGUs for their local transport route plans, as well as with organized transport groups and various transport cooperatives across the country, are still being conducted until present. 

On the issue that the PUVMP is anti-poor because of the high cost of new jeepney units, PISTON is clearly misinformed. A major component of the PUVMP is the financial scheme available to PUJ operators and drivers who wish to avail of new units through financing of government financial institutions, Development Bank of the Philippines and Land Bank of the Philippines. The financing package for acquisition of new units endorsed by the Department of Finance (DOF) is very generous – as low as 5% equity, 6% interest rate and a repayment period as long as 7 years.  On top of this, government will offer as high as PhP80,000 subsidy per unit to cover the equity payment. Moreover, because of zero or low maintenance cost of new units in the first 3 years, savings thereon will be translated to income, with an increased confidence and capability to meet loan obligations. All business models based on actual studies ensure profitability on the drivers/operators, even if they avail of the financial loan package offered by government financial institutions.

With all these, DOTr and LTFRB reiterate once again that the PUV Modernization program is NOT about any form of phase out. It is about MODERNIZING our fleets towards a more efficient, safe, comfortable, PWD-friendly and environmentally-sensitive public commuting. 

Pollution caused by antiquated PUJs has not only put a heavy toll on the environment, but has already become a serious public health issue. Also, the alarming statistics of deaths and road crashes brought by dilapidated jeepneys and buses, obsolete systems and ill-practices has to be stopped. We need to avoid the repeat of road tragedies like the one that happened in Tanay, Rizal and in Carranglan, Nueva Ecija, which claimed dozens of lives and injured many more.

Indeed, modernization of the country's public transport system is long overdue. Several attempts to modernize in the past have been thwarted due to similar transport strikes, protests and harassment. The result of which is what we have now – an outdated public transport system continuously endangering the environment and the safety of our people. We agree that the PUVMP may be bold and ambitious, but, when public good is at stake, the Duterte administration does not stop at anything. 

It is likewise important to note that, with the exception of PISTON, the PUVMP has gained the overwhelming support of different public transport groups. Among them are the Federation of Jeepney Operators and Drivers Association of the Philippines (FEJODAP), Alliance of Concerned Transport Organizations (ACTO), Pangkalahatang Sanggunian Manila and Suburb Drivers Association Nationwide Inc., (PASANG MASDA), Land Transportation Organization of the Philippines (LTOP), Alliance of Transport Operators and Drivers Association of the Philippines (ALTODAP), Stop and Go Coalition, and an overwhelmingly majority of provincial transport  cooperatives all over the country. This shows that should reason and rational minds prevail, discussions between the government and public transport groups on the improvement of our public transport system can be fruitful and productive.

We hope reason will prevail upon the leadership of PISTON and they finally open their doors to discussion for them to truly understand and appreciate the PUVMP.

In the meantime, we ensure that the needs of the commuting public will be addressed in light of PISTON’s nationwide protests. Notwithstanding the expected low impact of the transport strike, LTFRB regional offices were directed to prepare for contingency plans, including the deployment of buses and to work closely with LGUs and concerned government agencies such as the LTO, HPG, PNP, MMDA and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), to minimize the impact of the strike. In Metro Manila, the Joint Quick Reaction Team (JQRT) was established to address shortage of PUJs along affected routes, as well as to ensure safety of the riding public and jeepneys that do not want to participate in the strike. 

DOTr and LTFRB are open to more healthy discussions and further collaboration with groups and organizations who want to engage, learn and contribute to the development of the  PUV Modernization program.

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