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Manibela threatens wider strike next week amid PUVMP problems

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The transport group Manibela is set to stage an even wider strike next week after the government extended the deadline for public utility vehicle (PUV) consolidation until Jan. 31.

“We will go on strike, along with the other sectors, next week. Wala nang uwian ito hangga’t hindi binabawi ng pamahalaan ang plano nito (We will not return to our homes until the government withdraws its plan),” Manibela president Mar Valbuena said.

He said he has already discussed the strike, which will commence either Jan. 8 or 10 from UP Diliman in Quezon City to Mendiola in Manila, with transport group PISTON.

Manibela also warned of possible trouble with other drivers and operators if the government grants special permits to consolidated transport groups to ply routes outside their franchises that would see a shortage of PUVs.

“It will create tension because if we hear that some (consolidated PUVs) enter our routes, God forbid but I’m sure they will be blocked,” Valbuena told ABS-CBN in a TV interview.

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The Department of Transportation, meanwhile, allayed fears of some senior-citizen PUV drivers that they would be admitted into a cooperative due to their age.

Office of Transportation Cooperatives chief Andy Ortega assured these drivers there is no age limit to joining transport co-ops.

“As long as you are qualified (to drive), you have a professional driver’s license, and you pass a medical exam (for drivers), you can join,” Ortega said.

Passengers, meanwhile, fear a spike in fares in future years owing to PUV consolidation and when public vehicles are modernized, an economic think tank said.

Sonny Africa, executive director of Ibon Foundation, said they fully expect that within five years, minimum fares on PUVs would reach P45 to P50.

The DOTr previously said it would thoroughly evaluate petitions for PUV fare increases.

Valbuena said the Department of Transportation and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board should give up on their plan to replace traditional jeepneys with modern units that could cost P2.6 million to P2.8 million per unit.

Valbuena also criticized the LTFRB for its memorandum circular which said unconsolidated PUVs would still be allowed to ply routes where less than 60 percent of units are consolidated.

He said the order was not only confusing “but also deceiving.”

“It is deceiving the people because the LTFRB could not provide us with the actual data. The circular was not carefully studied. The LTFRB just issued it out of its whims and caprices,” Valbuena said.

The DOTr on Tuesday admitted it was still finalizing the total number of consolidated PUVs.

“An LTFRB resolution allowed applicants to beat the deadline even if payment of pertinent fees have not been made,” DOTr said.

“Today, January 2, 2024, the first working day after the deadline, LTFRB is calling those applicants to settle the fees so they can be included in the final consolidation report,” it added.

PISTON president Mody Floranda earlier said no route has reached the 60 percent benchmark of units that have already consolidated.

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