BAGUIO CITY— Members of the Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operators Nationwide (Piston) called the government “heartless” during a protest today, February 14, for pushing through with its jeepney modernization act.

Bearing heart-shape placards condemning the PUV modernization program, the protesters held a short program at the KM 0 marker of the city.

“We have a heartless government on hearts’ day who wants to deprive small people like drivers and operators of their source of livelihood,” George San Mateo, national chairperson emeritus of Piston said.

He reiterated their opposition to what he called “the enforced franchise consolidation” and the one-year provisional authority of the Department of Transportation (DOTr).

The Piston leader was referring to Memorandum Circular 2019-066 issued in December last year. The order simplified the process to fast track the consolidation of the individual franchises. Last month, the group submitted a resolution urging the DOTr to retract the order.

The DOTr gave jeepney drivers and operators until June 30, 2020, to file their intent for modernization. However, the office said jeepneys can still apply for one-year provisional authority and be able to run for a year while complying with the modernization program.

“Their idea is to let the jeeps continue to run until the imported expensive vehicles and transport corporations come. Essentially, they will use the franchise consolidation and one-year provisional authority to implement the phase-out,” San Mateo said.

San Mateo reiterated that what the DOTr is enforcing is not a genuine modernization program.

“We do not see it as a genuine modernization program but a money-making venture. There is no technology transfer. They (government) just opened the market for foreign vehicle companies to be able to dump and flood us with their expensive vehicles. They call it jeeps but are actually minibuses,” San Mateo said.

San Mateo said that genuine modernization should prioritize developing the country’s engine manufacturers and vehicle manufacturing industry.

San Mateo added that replacing jeepneys with minibusses would erase a Filipino identity.

“The jeepney is an iconic part of the Philippine culture, and a part of our identity,” he said.

San Mateo said the short protest action today is a prelude to yet another nationally coordinated protest action of Monday, February 17. He said drivers and operators would storm DOTr offices in Metro Manila and the Cordillera, among others. # nordis.net

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