Transport group Pinagkaisang Samahan ng Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (PISTON) will not back down on their opposition against the government's public utility vehicle (PUV) modernization program, its president said on Thursday.
This, even though it was said in a House hearing that President Rodrigo Duterte was only expressing the urgency of the program when he gave a January 1 deadline for jeepney drivers and operators to upgrade their units.
In an ambush interview with reporters, PISTON president George San Mateo expressed disappointment over Duterte's expletive-laden speech against jeepney drivers and operators on Tuesday.
"Yung sa sinabi ni Presidente, nalungkot at nagalit kami doon. Lalung-lalo na dahil, siyempre, bilang presidente, hindi niya dapat pinagmumura 'yung mga driver at operator dahil may dahilan kaya nag-strike," he said.
“January 1, ‘pag hindi niyo na-modernize ‘yan, umalis kayo. Mahirap kayo? P— ina, sige. Magtiiis kayo sa hirap at gutom, wala akong pakialam. It’s the majority of the Filipino people. Huwag ninyong ipasubo ang tao,” he said.
San Mateo said Duterte's remarks made drivers and operators angry.
"Nakita tuloy ng mga driver at operator na si Presidente mismo 'yung pangunahing nagtutulak ng negosyong modernization," he said.
"At nakita tuloy ng mga driver at operator, nalantad sa kanila na si Presidente at ang mga kasabwat niyang malalaking dayuhang-negosyante at crony niya ang pangunahing makikinabang dito sa negosyong modernization."
Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board chairman Martin Delgra, however, said the President's call for drivers and operators to upgrade their jeepneys by year-end was only his "expression of urgency" in the PUV modernization program.
"He has spoken firmly strongly in favor of the modernization that said I will have to understand him. The expression of the date is an expression of an urgency to push this as firmly as we can," he said.
With this clarification, San Mateo concluded that Duterte's remark should not necessarily cause fear among drivers and operators.
"Natakot kaagad yung mga operator sa dating ng statement ni Presidente, akala by end of December, wala na talaga yung mga jeep. So hindi ganun yung lumalabas," he said.
Still, San Mateo said they would continue their fight against the government's program, which his group has claimed is a jeepney phaseout plan that would require the purchase of newer, more expensive models.
"Ang tanong dito kung dahil sa hearing ay magrerenda kami, hindi pa rin. In fact, patuloy naming pinapanawagan," he said.
"Kami sa PISTON, we are calling on the DOTr (Department of Transportation), we are also calling on the President and Congress na i-junk itong Omnibus Franchising Guidelines (OFG) at magbuo ng panibago, para yung mga concerns na lumilitaw ay maipasok diyan," he added.
The OFG was issued by the DOTr to provide rules and strategies for issuing public transportation franchises to improve public land transport. But for PISTON, the guidelines supposedly aim to phase out old passenger jeepneys.
San Mateo said many operators and drivers will experience massive disenfranchisement if the OFG is implemented.
Delgra said the pilot implementation of the PUV modernization program will kick off before the end of the year. Its full implementation, on the other hand, is still "a work in progress," he said. —KBK, GMA News