THE two-day transport strike by a group of jeepney drivers and operators is emblematic of how some sectors of society insist on living in the past, stubbornly taking approaches that no longer work.
After the first day Monday, the Metro Manila Development Authority observed that the strike had a minimal effect on commuters, even though the organizers, Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operators Nationwide (Piston) claimed to have paralyzed 90 percent of Metro Manila. Given that both sides stand to gain from some hyperbole, the truth most likely lay somewhere in between.
Still, given that traffic was still heavy on most Metro Manila streets—despite the cancellation of work in government offices and schools at all levels—Piston’s claim seemed incredible, to say the least.
Piston and other groups belonging to the No to Jeepney Phaseout Coalition demand that the government junk its phaseout program so as to save the livelihood of more than 600,000 jeepney drivers and operators. The new models that they are supposed to purchase under the program are unaffordable, even with financing, the strike leaders say.
Under the modernization program, the government will impose a 15-year age limit on public utility jeepneys (PUJs) as it aims to modernize the fleet through low-carbon and low-emission vehicle. Technology standards on carbon emission and fleet management and maintenance would also be imposed to ensure passenger safety, and improve ambient air quality.
But Piston shows by its actions that it is mired in the old ways that no longer work.
To the extent that they inconvenienced thousands of commuters on some routes, they failed once again to bring this message to the real target of their action, the government. Instead, they angered their own customers.
In the face of the real problems that their antiquated jeepneys bring, the drivers and operators offer no practical solutions. And at the onset, we need to set the record straight: a government dole is not a solution. We, the taxpayers, cannot afford to give away PUJs to drivers and operators who stand in the way of progress.
The administration is correct in pushing through with the modernization program because it is long overdue.
Several attempts in the past to modernize the public transport system have been thwarted due to similar transport strikes, and the result is the mess we have today.
Besides, the PUJ modernization program has already won the support of other transport groups, indicating that the terms and conditions may not be as onerous as Piston would have us believe.
These groups include the Federation of Jeepney Operators and Drivers Association of the Philippines (Fejodap), the Alliance of Concerned Transport Organizations (Acto), Pangkalahatang Sanggunian Manila and Suburb Drivers Association Nationwide Inc., (Pasang Masda), Land Transportation Organization of the Philippines (LTOP), Alliance of Transport Operators and Drivers Association of the Philippines (Altodap), Stop and Go Coalition, and most of the provincial transport cooperatives all over the country.
It is time Piston got on the program—or got out of the way. We have places to go.