DAVAO CITY, Philippines — A transport group expressed their firm stand against the modernization of the public transport system through a picket protest in support to a call for a nationwide transport strike on Monday, September 30.
Larry Arguilles, Secretary General of the Transmission Piston Southern Mindanao Region said the picket protest they staged signified their strong opposition to the transport modernization program of the government.
“There is a coordinated call from the national transport groups for a transport strike. But in the city of Davao, our answer is this picket protest,” Arguilles told reporters, reiterating that PUJ drivers and small operators in Davao are against the modernization program of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB).
He also expressed concern over the slated High Priority Bus System (HPBS) in the city that will totally phase out the PUJs.
“In Davao City, the modernization program is different from that of the national form that only mandates for a rehabilitation of current PUJs until it pass the standards. Here, they will totally phase out all the PUJs and replace it with the bus system,” Arguilles said.
He also refuted the suggestion of LTFRB for the operators to form a cooperative in order to get a franchise for the buses that will be deployed as part of the modernization program.
“Their proposal for us to form a cooperative as an answer to the phase out is not possible. Buses are very expensive for us,” Arguilles argued.
He also pointed out that a cooperative will not work given that a single bus would cost about P7 million in minimum to P13 million.
Small operators, he added, cannot afford the price of the buses.
In a separate interview, Atty. Armand Dioso, the regional director of LTFRB in Davao region said that their office is making moves to convince operators to form a cooperative.
“We are currently dispatching our personnel to urge the operators to form a cooperative to replace their PUJs with the modern transport system,” Dioso said, adding that the local government of Davao City also offers cash assistance.
According to Dioso, they are also set to roll out skills training program for the drivers that will be displaced through a Tsuper Iskolar project of the Department of Transportation and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).
LTFRB-XI is currently gathering data for the beneficiaries of the Tsuper Iskolar program, he added.
Meanwhile, the transport group of Arguilles is calling for a win-win solution to the situation of the PUJ drivers and operators.
“We will be amenable to the bus system only if they allow us PUJs to also ply to our routes,” Arguilles said.
He added that phasing out the PUJs will result to the displacement of drivers and operators and eventually add to the number of unemployed Filipinos in the country.
For his part, LTFRB-XI Director Dioso urged the transport group to respect the modernization program of the government.
“We respect their rights to exercise their freedom of expression but we also ask them to respect the modernization program. We have had dialogues with them and we have heard their sentiments on this program that is why the government also offer programs and assistance to the displaced drivers,” Dioso said.
Dioso added: “If we are to introduce change, someone will have to be affected but the bright side of this is the development of the economy. First is the convenience of the commuters. Also, if we have an organized transport system, investors will come in.”
He also responded to the reports stating that the LTFRB will confiscate the franchises of those who will participate in the strike.
“Those who will join the strike will commit economic sabotage. That is a violation of the mandates of their 01franchise. If we can prove that they joined the strike, we can decide to impose a sanction,” Dioso said.
But he clarified that reports reaching their office indicated that there was no transport strike but only an assembly of drivers and operators.
The added that LTFRB-XI had anticipated the strike and was prepared to dispatch augmentation rides for the public. (davaotoday.com)