DIALOGUE. Presidential Communications Office Secretary Cheloy Garafil (2nd from left) and Office of the Executive Secretary Undersecretary Roy Cervantes (left) hold a dialogue with PISTON president Mody Florada (right) and Manibela Transport Group chair Mar Valbuena in Malacañang on Tuesday (March 7, 2023) to thresh out concerns regarding the implementation of the PUV modernization program. The transport leaders ended on Tuesday night what was supposed to be a weeklong transport strike. (Photo courtesy of PCO)

MANILA – Jeepneys are expected to resume plying their regular routes after transport groups Manibela and Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (PISTON) announced the end of their nationwide strike Tuesday night after meeting with Palace officials.

Manibela chairperson Mar Valbuena, accompanied by PISTON president Mody Florada, announced their decision to end the transport strike in a video uploaded on the official Facebook page of the Presidential Communications Office (PCO).

“Nagdesisyon ang aming grupo na ihinto ang transport strike kasama ang PISTON at pagbalik pasada na simula bukas (Our group and PISTON have decided to halt the transport strike and start plying routes starting tomorrow [Wednesday]),” Valbuena said.

He apologized to commuters for staging a transport strike and thanked them for their patience.

Valbuena likewise clarified that their groups were not opposed to the public utility vehicle modernization program (PUVMP) but rather wanted it done in a manner that would not put their livelihood at stake.

In a separate post, the PCO shared photos of a meeting between the transport group heads and PCO Secretary Cheloy Garafil and Office of the Executive Secretary Undersecretary Roy Cervantes.

In the meeting, the transport group leaders had the chance to air their grievances over the implementation of the PUVMP.

The PCO also welcomed the transport groups’ decision to end the nationwide strike that was supposed to run from Monday to Saturday but ended only after two days.

“Ikinalulugod ng Pamahalaan ang naging desiyon ng Manibela Transport Group na itigil ang isinasagawang transport strike ngayong linggo, na ipinatupad kaugnay sa kanilang pagtutol sa implementasyon ng Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (The government welcomes the decision of the Manibela Transport Group to stop this week's transport strike, which was implemented in connection with their opposition to the implementation of the PUVMP),” the PCO said.

Meanwhile, the PCO said President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. ordered the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) to review the provisions of Department Order 2017-011 or the Omnibus Franchising Guidelines, which outlines the PUVMP.

He urged both agencies to ensure that every aspect of program implementation is considered, including hearing the grievances of drivers and operators.

To recall, the initial June 30 deadline for the consolidation of guidelines of the PUVMP – not for the phaseout of traditional jeepney units – has been moved to Dec. 31.

The DOTr and the LTFRB are also expected to conduct consultations with drivers and operators to ensure the PUVMP’s smooth implementation.

Marcos earlier described the implementation of the PUVMP as necessary but needs more discussions among stakeholders, particularly jeepney drivers’ groups.

Meanwhile, the LTFRB on Wednesday hailed the decision of transport groups to call off their weeklong strike after a dialogue with Palace officials.

In a statement, LTFRB chair Teofilo Guadiz III lauded Manibela and PISTON for heeding the call of Marcos and putting an end to the strike for the benefit of commuters.

Guadiz said Marcos ordered the DOTr and LTFRB to make the PUVMP more “responsive and inclusive” to the needs of drivers and operators in public transport.

The resolution of the strike, he said, is an "opportune time" to work together for a better public transportation system that would benefit not only drivers and operators but also commuters.

Mananatili pong bukas ang aking tanggapan sa LTFRB, sa tulong na rin ng DOTr, kung saan maaari tayong mag-usap ng masinsinan kung paano pa mas mapapabuti ang PUVMP at kung paano makakasunod ang ating mga drayber at operator sa programa (The LTFRB remains open, with the help of the DOTr, to dialogues where we can deeply discuss how to improve the PUVMP and how drivers and operators can follow the program),” Guadiz said.

He also thanked other government agencies and local government units for their assistance in easing the impact of the strike on commuters.

“Naniniwala po ang LTFRB na walang sigalot o di pagkaka-intindihan na hindi malulutas basta mag-uusap, magtutulong-tulong, magsasama-sama, at magkakaisa (The LTFRB believes that there is no conflict or misunderstanding that cannot be solved through dialogue, collaboration, unity, and solidarity),” he said.

The protest against the PUVMP was launched on Monday and was supposed to end on Saturday.

During the two-day nationwide transport strike, the national government provided free rides for commuters and deployed other PUVs to serve the routes affected. (PNA)