A transport group remained firm in its stance against the local plan to modernize the transport system as members held a lightning rally near the Land Transportation and Franchising Regulatory Board XI office yesterday.
“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,” Larry Arguilles, secretary general of the Transmission Piston-Southern Mindanao, said.
“This picket is to signify that the PUJ drivers and small operators are against this program of the LTFRB,” he added.
According to him, the slated High Priority Bus System in the city will totally phase out the passenger jeepneys here.
“In Davao City, the modernization program is different from that of the national form that only mandates for a rehabilitation of current PUJs until they pass the standards. Here, they will totally phase out all the PUJs and replace it with the bus system,” said Arguilles.
He also refuted the suggestion of LTFRB for operators to form a cooperative in order to get a franchise for the modern buses.
“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 said. “A cooperative won’t work. A single bus would cost about P 7 million in minimum to P13 million and the small operators can’t afford that.”
In a separate interview with LTFRB Davao regional director Armand Dioso, he said they are offering cash assistance to qualified cooperatives so they can manage their own fleets.
“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.
According to Dioso, they are also set to roll out skills training program for the drivers that will be displaced through a Tsuper Iskolar, a project of the Department of Transportation and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda).
He said for the Tsuper Iskolar, they are still getting the data of the beneficiaries from the Tesda.
Meanwhile, the Transmission Piston stressed their call for a win-win solution.
“We will be amenable to the bus system only if they allow us PUJs to also ply our routes,” said Arguilles.
“If they phase out the PUJs, many will be displaced. These displaced drivers will add to the unemployed Filipinos,” he added.
However, Dioso said the groups have to respect the 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.
“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 added.
Dioso also answered reports 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 franchise. If we can prove that they joined the strike, we can decide to impose a sanction,” Dioso said.
But, Dioso said they already received reports from groups, there are no transport strikes but only an assembly.
Meanwhile, the Davao City Police Office yesterday said there were only around 10 drivers who conducted a rally against the bus rapid transport modernization plan so they encountered no problems with security.
In an interview yesterday, DCPO spokesperson, Capt. Nolan Tagsip, said there were no monitored passengers were stranded.
“Our traffic situation was normal,” Tagsip said.
He also said that the DCPO deployed enough personnel to strategic areas to assist passengers.
By Julianne A. Suarez and Rhoda Grace B. Saron