Malacanang, June 29, 2003 (Star) President Arroyo averted on Friday night what could have been a Metro Manila-wide jeepney strike scheduled on July 1 by five jeepney drivers and operators organizations.

The President, along with Transportation and Communication Secretary Leandro Mendoza and Interior and Local Government Secretary Jose Lina Jr., met with jeepney leaders for more than two hours at MalacaŮang over the issue of the transfer of power to issue traffic tickets to local government units, the granting of more franchise lines to FX taxis and the feared phaseout of jeepney routes.

Jeepney leaders oppose the plan of Metro Manila mayors to take over traffic management from the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) as well as the resolution issued by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) allowing the grant of new franchise lines to FX taxis, which they claimed would phase out existing jeepney routes.

FEJODAP president Zeny Maranan disclosed yesterday over radio dzRH that her group, along with other leaders and representatives of Pasang Masa, PERGODA, PCDO-ACTO and MAJODA, got a firm commitment from Mrs. Arroyo to address their concerns.

"And because the President assured us she would address our concerns, we will suspend for now our planned jeepney strike this July 1," Maranan said in Filipino.

"But this does not mean we will no longer take such action if we see that nothing comes out of these commitments from the President," she said.

Maranan stressed that Mrs. Arroyo, Lina and Mendoza agreed with them that the MMDA should retain traffic management and be the sole authority, as mandated by law, to issue traffic violation receipts (TVRs).

"We want a single ticketing system and we donít want this done by each and every Metro Manila mayor because this would only cause more confusion and more corruption," Maranan said.

Reached by The STAR yesterday, Lina confirmed Marananís disclosures, saying that the President had invited him as DILG secretary to discuss traffic management issues between the MMDA and the Metro Manila mayors.

"We have to operate by law and the law says, this (authority over traffic management) belongs to the MMDA," Lina said.

Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye also disclosed earlier that the Palace position on the issue is that Metro Manila mayors could not take away traffic management and garbage collection responsibilities from the MMDA.

This was after the regular Metro Manila Council meeting on Thursday, where 14 of the 17 Metro Manila Mayors decided that their respective local governments would be taking over traffic management and enforcement, with the MMDA relegated to a supporting and coordinating role.

Meanwhile, regarding the rumored eventual phase out of jeepney routes due to LTFRBís resolution favoring FX taxis, Maranan said Mendoza would discuss this issue with LTFRB chief Dante Lantin as there is no such policy at his level.

"She (President Arroyo) understood our situation and she asked that we give Secretary Mendoza a chance to look into this and see if our request could be accommodated," Maranan said.

"We really saw how the President feels for us on our plight. We were not the only one she listened to but our members as well. Some might accuse us again of being paid. But we believe her promise to us," said Maranan.

However, Maranan said she could not speak for other jeepney groups like those headed by Menardo Roda of Piston, who were not at the Palace meeting. ó Marichu Villanueva

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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