“They thrust the needy from the path and force all the poor of the land into hiding.” – Job 24:4
The National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) stands with the affected public transport sector, concerned Filipino commuters and people’s organizations in the nationwide transport strike against the public utility vehicle (PUV) phaseout.
In 2017, the Department of Transportation (DOT) released Department Order 2017-011 or the PUV Modernization Program which is a major overhaul of how PUV franchises are granted and routes are organized. The jeepney phaseout is just a part of a larger ‘modernization’ plan. We echo the concerns of the jeepney drivers expressed by PISTON National President Mody Floranda, who pointed out that franchise consolidation would only mean “revocation and massacre of individual franchises” because they will be transferred to large transport corporations that are the only ones capable of paying and complying with the government’s schemes.
During the electoral campaign period, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. promised jeepney groups that he would prioritize a bill to set-up a public transport consumers’ tax to fund the modernization program, instead of putting the costs on the shoulders of the franchisees, but this has not been fulfilled so far. We urge the government to go beyond the band-aid solutions that only pit the jeepney drivers and operators against consumers, like the “libreng sakay” schemes, and class suspensions. It is time to finally heed the united appeal of the ordinary PUV operators, drivers, and everyday commuters, which is that this ‘modernization’ program is financially unsustainable for them, and will mean the loss of livelihood for thousands of PUV drivers and their families.
As Christians, we must discern: why does the poor have to be pushed further to grave suffering? A question that consistently challenges us. As we witness and support the significance of the nationwide transport strike, we pray to God for strength, endurance and courage for our siblings – PUV drivers, operators and commuters. We call for genuine and pro-people modernization of public transportation system that is not at the expense of PUV drivers and operators. We demand compassion and openness from concerned public officials and government agencies.
Finally, we call on our member churches and associate members to not let the poor be forced out and be left behind towards the path to Shalom. Let us be in solidarity with jeepney drivers and operators in this time of uncertainty.
(This statement was approved unanimously by the delegates of the 26th General Convention of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines on November 24, 2023.)