Transport officials caution jeep drivers vs. joining strikes

MANILA -- The Department of Transportation (DOTr) and the Land Transportation Franchising Regulatory Board (LTFRB) warned that it will not tolerate any transport strike that will be staged by transport groups in protest to a series of oil price increases.

Both agencies said the strikes are a violation of their franchises which mandates them to provide public transportation services.

Unfortunately, some transport groups are threatening the government of a Red October Strike, an abandonment of their state-given privilege to operate public transport conveyance. In response, we would like to emphasize that our stand remains the same, and will continue to be firm: The DOTr- LTFRB will not tolerate any transport strike. We will make sure that the rule of law shall prevail and will be enforced, the DOTr and LTFRB said in a joint statement on Sunday.

The law clearly states that being granted public transport franchises is a privilege and a public responsibility, and violating this responsibility will result to sanctions. The riding public do not deserve the inconvenience the transport strike will bring, they added.

Furthermore, the DOTr-LTFRB reiterated that the Pantawid Pasada program for jeepney drivers and operators is aimed at mitigating the impact of oil price increases which were attributed to higher excise taxes on petroleum products due to the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law and the volatility in oil prices on the world market.

An excise tax of PHP2.50 per liter on diesel was imposed under the TRAIN law for this year.

Those in the transport business know that fuel prices are an ever-changing variable, and that is also why the government is giving subsidies where it can, the DOTr-LTFRB said.

Under the Pantawid program, the government will provide a lump sum fuel subsidy of PHP5,000 to around 179,000 jeepney operators and drivers nationwide for this year.

The DOTr-LTFRB has likewise said it is still reviewing the impact of further increases on jeepney fares on the riding public as well as the inflation rate in the country.

The LTFRB is now addressing the remaining issue of additional fare increase, bearing in mind the adverse effect it would impact on the millions of daily commuters, as well as the overall impact it would have on inflation. It may be noted that sometime on July 2008, when price of diesel per liter was at a high of PHP52.00, the PUJ fare was at PHP8.50, it added.

Transport groups have proposed a PHP12 jeepney fare from the current PHP9 to ensure sustainable income for jeepney drivers and operators amid the oil price hikes.

The DOTr-LTFRB appealed to the transport groups to have a dialogue with the government putting into consideration the welfare of the riding public.

We convey that the doors to rational and reasonable dialogue between transport groups and the government will continue to be open, transparent, and available-- putting into paramount importance the interest of the riding public, it said.

Various transport groups such as the Federation of Jeepney Operators and Drivers Association of the Philippines, Alliance of Transport Operators and Drivers Association of the Philippines and Samahan ng Tsuper at Operator ng Pilipinas Genuine Organization have threatened that they will stage their Red October version of mass demonstrations if the government will not be able to decide on their proposed jeepney fare hike as the Senate conducts its public hearing on the matter by Monday.

The move comes as another round of oil price hikes are expected for the coming week while the inflation rate for the month of September has reached 6.7 percent which is the highest ever in nine years, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority. (PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency