If you expected the President to hold back against transport group Piston over their two day strike and further threats of subsequent monthly strikes, think again.

President Duterte is engaged in a word war with Piston, or the Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide (Piston), over their two day strike held from October 16 to 17.

The strike was staged to protest the implementation of the PUV modernization act; a law that will see older jeepneys (15 years or over) be outlawed in favor of more eco-friendly alternatives, particularly those with engines that meet Euro-4 emission standards.

Duterte slams, threatens Piston over strikes against PUV modernization

"I'll give you until the end of the month or until the end of the year, you have to follow because by January 1, if I see jeepney that is not registered, old, I will tow it in front of you,” the President was quoted as saying by SunStar. “If the government says it want to protect public health and public interest, you have to follow it.”

Piston had been trying to seek an audience with President Duterte, but the Chief Executive shrugged them off.

“He has time for businessmen. He has time for soldiers. He has time for police officers. But how come for drivers and operators, he doesn't have time?” said George San Mateo, the leader of Piston, to CNN. “Now, if the President continues to ignore us, even if this second day of protest isn't done, we will prepare another strike.” 

The issue of PUV modernization is a heated one amongst stakeholders. The program is a major initiative of the Department of Transportation, but was criticized by Piston due to the costs that the drivers and operators, most of which presumably do not have the financial capability to upgrade to more modern, eco-friendly means of livelihood through transport. 

The Department of Transportation have released the terms of the PUV modernization act to assuage the drivers with its benefits. The DOTr estimates that drivers will save up to 43% in fuel due to the more efficient Euro-4 rated engines, along with a higher 22 passenger capacity. The new vehicles will benefit local manfucturers as all will be designed and manufactured here, creating jobs. The program also mandates a rebate of up to PhP 80,000 for every old jeepney and a loan program with a 6% interest rate, 5% equity, and a maximum 7-year amortization term.