By Alexandria Dennise San Juan
Government will offer tomorrow free rides and will deploy buses in Metro Manila due to the expected nationwide protest action to be staged by transport group Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide (PISTON) despite their advice that the riding public will not be affected.
Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board Member Atty. Aileen Lizada said at least 38 government vehicles offering free rides, together with 20 buses with P10 fare for non-airconditioned and P12 for airconditioned, will be prepositioned in seven staging areas in Metro Manila tomorrow.
Lizada, who now speaks for the Joint Quick Response Team (JQRT) on Transportation and Disaster with Transportation Undersecretary Tim Orbos, said the JQRT will be activated early morning tomorrow to assist passengers that might possibly be stranded due to the transport group’s demonstration.
The JQRT includes the LTFRB, Armed Forces of the Philippines, Department of Transportation, Philippine Coast Guard, Department of Public Works and Highways, Office of Transport Security, and Metro Manila Development Authority.
Last week, PISTON president George San Mateo said they will stage demonstrations in front of the LTFRB offices nationwide to protest against “Tanggal Bulok, Tanggal Usok” campaign of the Inter-Agency Council on Traffic (I-ACT) which is a part of the government’s public utility vehicle modernization program.
The campaign is a crackdown on smoke-belching and dilapidated jeepneys plying on Metro Manila roads as authorities explained that they pose threats to health and safety of the passengers.
“We are strongly condemning yung operasyon na ginagawa ng I-ACT. Dahil diyan, tatapatan namin ng protest action kung saan sila mag-ooperate (We are strongly condemning the operation being conducted by I-ACT. With that, we will be staging protest actions on the area where they will be operating),” San Mateo said in an earlier interview.
San Mateo also reiterated that tomorrow’s action is “not a transport strike but a nationally coordinated protest action,” adding that the passengers will not be affected.
Meanwhile, Ringo Lago, secretary general of PISTON in Mindanao, said they will be also staging picket rally among LTFRB Regional Offices there.
Lago said at least 300-400 PUJ drivers will join the caravan to protest against the jeepney phaseout and the new tax reform law which is expected to result in higher excise taxes on petroleum products, and vehicle maintenance.