By Raymond Carl Dela Cruz

PNA file photo

MANILA – The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) on Tuesday assured commuters that the Libreng Sakay (free ride) service by the national and local governments will again be deployed if another transport strike occurs.

“The LTFRB will coordinate with concerned agencies and local government units (LGUs) as standard operating procedure,” the LTFRB said in a statement.

It urged those joining the strike to not prevent public utility vehicle (PUV) drivers who are willing to work from doing their jobs.

“[They] are making a living as they need to provide for their families and [wish to help] our commuters,” it added.

The statement is in response to an interview with Manibela president Mar Valbuena that a joint strike with Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (PISTON) and other transport groups is possible to protest the Dec. 31 deadline for consolidation under the PUV modernization program (PUVMP).

Last week, PISTON and Manibela held transport strikes from Nov. 20 to 22 and Nov. 22 to 24, respectively, to protest the consolidation deadline and other aspects of the PUVMP.

In response, the LTFRB engaged the two groups in a dialogue that resulted in waiving penalties for PUV drivers and operators, extending the validity of a franchise to five years, and changing or removing some provisions in the Omnibus Franchising Guidelines (OFG) under the PUVMP.

The LTFRB and the Department of Transportation (DOTr), however, have remained adamant on the consolidation deadline as it is “non-negotiable.” (PNA)