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Protest march mounted vs imminent jeepney phase-out

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• CHRYSEE G. SAMILLANO

PROTEST. Hundreds of Bacolod jeepney drivers and small time operators staged a protest-march in the city yesterday, against the imminent PUV phase-out through the December 31 deadline for franchise consolidation* CGS photo

Close to 1,000 traditional jeepney drivers and small-time operators from different transport groups in Bacolod held a protest-march yesterday against the imminent PUV phase-out through the December 31 deadline for franchise consolidation.

Rudy Cathedral, president of the Bacolod Alliance for Commuters, Operators and Drivers, Inc. (BACOD), yesterday said the protest-march from Rizal Elementary School to the Public Plaza ended with a noise barrage at the Fountain of Justice where they called on the government to stop the Dec. 31 deadline for the consolidation of their franchises. About 2,000 drivers in Bacolod will be affected by the PUV Modernization Program, aside from small time operators and their families.

Cathedral pointed out that the PUV Modernization Program is only governed by Department Order No. 2017-011, but their franchise is covered by R.A. 4136. A department order cannot supersede a Republic Act.

Many of their members who have joined the program are now facing problems, based on testimonies presented during their activity yesterday. They hope that the national government would heed their demands by extending their franchise or granting them provisional authority, as well as studying carefully the PUV Modernization Program, as it has many violations against their rights, he said.

On Wednesday, some consolidated operators of the modernized jeepney in Bacolod sought the help of members of the Bacolod Sangguniang Panlungsod to bring their concerns to the Senate.

Philip Burata said the PUV Modernization Program lacks thorough study, especially in protecting operators like them who have consolidated their franchises under the program.

They have discovered, after securing a certified true copy from the Securities and Exchange Commission, that their names have not been included or registered in the corporation despite having invested millions of pesos for 44 units of modernized jeepneys. They made the discovery after Choret Corporation filed a case of 38 counts of carnapping against four of them before the National Prosecution Service in Bacolod early this month, he said.

Burata claimed that the corporation has custody of six units of their modernized jeepneys.

Meanwhile, a unity statement issued by UNDOC PISTON and BACOD MANIBELA states that the consolidation forces them to relinquish control of their routes to corporate entities or cooperatives, stripping away their autonomy.

This ‘franchise consolidation’ within the PUV Modernization Program is purported to enhance transportation, yet it evidently serves big corporations’ interests, aiming for a monopoly rather than genuine modernization. Over 80 percent, or 140,000 drivers and 60,000 small operators, are dependent on individual franchises in the Philippines. In Bacolod City alone, more than 2,000 jeepney drivers will face the brunt of this move, it said.

The absence of a clear plan for those displaced by this program showcases the government’s negligence towards those affected, the statement said.

“We stand united with the nationwide strike on December 21 and 22 against this unfair franchise consolidation and modernization program. The filing of a petition by the transport group PISTON with the Supreme Court seeking a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) against this consolidation affirms our constitutional right to association, as forcing operators to join associations goes against our fundamental rights,” it said.

“We refuse to succumb to this consolidation and urge the government to junk Department of Transportation (DOTr) Department Order (DO) 2017-011, or the Omnibus Franchising Guidelines (OFG), and other relevant Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) issuances which seeks to phase out traditional jeepneys. Our livelihoods are at stake, and we demand a more inclusive and fair modernization plan that doesn’t sacrifice the welfare of small-time operators and drivers,” the statement added.*

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