The government said a transport strike by the alliance Manibela failed to disrupt public transportation on Monday, even as the group stormed the office of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) to protest its public utility vehicle (PUV) modernization program and the alleged corruption at the agency.
Members of the Malayang Alyansa ng Bus Employees at Laborers (Manibela) stormed the LTFRB central office on East Avenue, Quezon City, holding a 20-minute picket that triggered heavy traffic in the area.
“The credibility of the program [is in question]… it is clear that there is corruption in the implementation, and its aim is not to modernize the PUV,” Manibela president Mar Valbuena said.
The LTFRB has been rocked by allegations of corruption, leading President Marcos to suspend its chief Teofilo Guadiz III earlier this month.
Manibela also opposes the government’s Dec. 31 deadline for the consolidation of traditional jeepneys as part of the PUV Modernization Program.
Valbuena earlier vowed to hold the “biggest transport strike the government would have ever experienced,” with at least 500 routes out of the total 785 routes in Metro Manila affected by the strike.
But the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) said the transport strike caused only “minimal” disruption to traffic and commuters.
“Based on our monitoring, there was no major disruption of public transportation in Metro Manila,” said MMDA acting Chairman Don Artes during a press briefing held at the MMDA Head Office in Pasig City.
“If the purpose of the strike is to paralyze public transportation, they have failed. But if their purpose is to attract attention, maybe they succeeded in that aspect,” he added.
Artes noted that there was a passenger buildup in some areas, which he described as “usual Monday morning foot traffic.”
Artes also refuted Valbuena’s claim that the government was intimidated by Manibela’s threats, prompting several local government units and schools to suspend classes.
“Our government cannot be held hostage by the threat of economic sabotage and inconvenience to the commuting public, especially if what you are demanding is wrong. Let’s remember that jeepney modernization is mandated by law. In fact, more than 70 percent are already compliant with that,” Artes said.
Ahead of the transport strike, the MMDA set up a multi-agency command center (MACC) at the MMDA Head Office in Pasig City to monitor the developments and positioned augmentation vehicles in strategic areas.
Some passengers were reported stranded at about 9 a.m. going to the cities of Pasig and San Juan, while protesters staged jeepney caravans in Manila and Parañaque.
But the MMDA has deployed two buses from Quirino Redemptorist to Sucat Highway to assist the affected passengers.
Earlier, major transport groups committed to the MMDA that they would not join the Manibela strike. The groups—referred to collectively as “the Magnificent 7”–were Pasang Masda, Alliance of Transport Operators and Drivers Association of the Philippines, Paggakaisa ng mga Sahaman ng Super at Opereytor Nationwide, Alliance of Concerned Transport Organizations, Federation of Jeepney Operators and Drivers Association of the Philippines, Stop and Go Transport Coalition, and League of Transportation and Operators in the Philippines.
In a report submitted to Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista, the LTFRB said only a handful of protesters participated in the protest.
The LTFRB added that stranded commuters were provided with free rides in their respective city governments as well as vehicles deployed by the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the MMDA.
Bautista dismissed Manibela’s claim of crippling 600 routes in Luzon.
He said the small number of protesters participating in the strike and the decision of the Magnificent 7 to continue operating made Manibela’s action “a complete failure.”
The assurances did not stop local governments from taking precautions.
Caloocan City shifted classes at all levels for both public and private schools to shift to online mode on Oct. 16.
Service vehicles were also to be deployed in key areas in north and south Caloocan to provide free transportation to stranded commuters.
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