February 24, 2018, 10:39 pm
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Problem of jeepneys

THE JEEPNEY, once the boast of Filipino ingenuity and artistry, has become a festering problem of the public transport system, one that is shared by both the government and the private sector (owners/operators and drivers) and the riding public in general.

A novelty at the close of World War 2 when used and discarded American military jeeps were transformed by Filipinos as functional vehicles to carry passengers and cargo, the jeepneys now are seen as big contributors to traffic jams and smog.

Now that the government is pushing the Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP) and a big organization of jeepney drivers and operators are opposing it with nationwide transport strikes, the issue of reliable public transport systems again caught media attention.

The Pinagkaisang Samahan ng Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide (Piston) which is engaged in a two-day strike until Tuesday has some legitimate issues against the government’s modernization program. 

George San Mateo, Piston president, hit the onerous financial package being offered by the government for jeepney refleeting, which is tantamount to phasing out the traditional jeepneys for it will force operators to buy more expensive models at P1.6 million each. San Mateo’s position is that the Duterte administration, particularly the Department of Transportation, is favoring foreign vehicle suppliers by pushing the program.

Anybody can agree with Piston’s position on national industrialization -- the development of Filipino industries to utilize our own mineral resources to make engines and other vehicle components, just like China and South Korea.

We were second to Japan in many sectors of the economy but overtaken by many of our Asian neighbors because of wrong priorities, official corruption and political bickering.

Take this very economic issue of the transport strike vs. jeepney modernization. LTFRB official Aileen Lizada had the temerity to put the government destabilization spin on this genuinely food-and-gut issue of livelihood and survival of transport workers.

She said that just because left-leaning party-list organizations and critics of Duterte are supporting the strike meant it was designed to shake the government from its terra firma perch.

Going by the Lizada logic, every protest action or mass mobilization of students, workers, or any other social group would fit into the category of destabilization moves against the government, instead of legitimate exercise of the constitutional right to petition the government for redress of grievances.

It is just as well that the jeepney strike made its point in a peaceful way and the government proved that it can weather any transport emergency by being prepared and by fielding enough vehicles for free rides. The problem stays, however, and it is for our government planners to solve this.
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