Jeepney strike turns into quiet protest in Metro Manila

The expected jeepney and public utility vehicle strike in Metro Manila and its suburbs on Tuesday morphed into a silent protest as more groups, including those in the provinces, vowed to prolong their condemnation of the government’s seeming inaction on controlling the spikes in oil prices.

AT THE READY. Metropolitan Manila Development Authority chairman Romano Artes inspects the agency’s vehicles to be used to ferry passengers that would be stranded by a declared strike by public transport groups on Tuesday, which fizzled out. MMDA photo

One group warned that it may reach the point where even truck drivers and delivery riders, mostly on motorcycles, would join in their nationwide protest, as motorists simply would not be able to take the roads with gasoline and diesel prices projected to shoot past P80 a liter this week.

“Mayroong nagaganap na pagkilos sa iba’t ibang bahagi dito sa NCR (National Capital Region) at sa iba pang mga region, pero hindi siya transport strike (Actions are happening in various parts of the NCR and in other regions, but it is not a transport strike),” Piston President Modesto “Mody” Floranda told CNN Philippines.

Floranda said the different protest actions they took yesterday did not amount to a “tigil-pasada” (transport halt), but their allied groups were one in condemning the runaway oil prices spiked by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority confirmed the lack of “strike” movement in the NCR, as it said there was “no report of any stranded passengers along all major roads and secondary roads” and “no sighting or report of driver strikers grouping anywhere in Metro Manila.”

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But the National Public Transport Coalition said they, Piston or the other groups didn’t need to do a transport strike because they were very close to not plying their routes owing to the expensive fuel costs.

“Hindi po [ito] tigil-pasada (This is not a transport strike),” NPTC president Ariel Lim said. “Kusa po na talagang hihinto dahil po, gaya ng sinasabi namin hindi na po kaya [We are really stopping because, like we said, we can no longer afford it].”

“Kahit po anong gawin, gustuhin man po namin maglingkod sa ating mga pasahero, sa ating mga kasama sa hanapuhay ay hindi na po namin kakayanin dahil po sa taas nga po ng presyo ng krudo at gasoline,” Lim added.

[Whatever we do, even if we want to serve our passengers, among our workmates and comrades, we agree that we cannot afford the high prices of crude (diesel) and gasoline.]

He also noted that fuel subsidies do not cover truck drivers, only PUVs and that delivery riders—which flourished during the COVID-19 pandemic—are uncertain as to where they could get cash aid or fuel allowances.

The distribution of the ₱6,500 fuel subsidy for PUV drivers has started, with the next tranche to be given out in April.

But Lim doesn’t see government doleouts as a long-term solution to the fuel crisis, noting that the subsidy money would last most jeepney drivers just a few days, as a 40-liter full tank at current prices would cost well over P2,800.

“Ang una ho naming hinihingi talaga eh yun pong excise tax dahil doon po namin gustong makita kung magkano ang mababawas kung sakaling matatanggal ang excise tax,” the NPTC chief said.

[What we’re really asking for is the (removal of the) excise tax (on fuels) because we want to see how much it can really bring the prices

(of oil products) down.]

Drivers in some areas in Mindoro, Marinduque and Cebu were already turning off their engines, Lim said, as he warned the government it

might wake up one day to no jeepneys, truckers, or even taxis taking the roads.

They will be joined by drivers and operators in Negros Occidental, who yesterday declared a “People’s Holiday” in Bacolod City and its surrounding areas from March 21-22.

The United Negros Drivers and Operators Center (Undoc), Sentrong Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operators Negros (Sstone) and Federation of Bacolod Drivers Association (Febacda) released a joint statement likewise condemning the continuing price increase of fuels caused by the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

Another transport leader, Pasang Masda president Obet Martin told CNN Philippines he was displeased with transport stoppages because “it is not a solution and cannot bring down prices of petroleum products. Prices come from the international market and the government has no control over that.”

Martin lauded the government’s mitigating measures so far, including the doubling of fuel subsidy funds to ₱5 billion and service contracting for free rides.

Last week, transport advocate Ariel Inton also said: “It’s not a transport strike, rather just a ‘tigil pasada’ (no trips). We don’t want everyone to see this as a protest, but transport workers can no longer afford this crisis we are facing.”

Inton, the president of the Lawyers for Commuters Safety and Protection, said that transport workers could no longer depend on the

government’s assurances to provide relief, adding that more pressing action was preferable to promises.

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