Once again, the jeepney associations led by the militant group Pinagkaisang Samahan ng Tsuper at Operator Nationwide or Piston went on strike for two days instead of the usual one day. The strike caused so much disruption.
Although the Metro Manila Development Authority said that the effect of the strike was minimal, in actual fact, the effect was huge if we include the loss of productivity and the two-day class suspension which will have to be recovered with another extra two school days. The loss of the productivity can no longer be recovered.
Since these jeepney associations have been doing this with regularity, one would think that the government would have already learned valuable lessons on how to effectively respond to such a situation instead of just suspending work, classes and providing free transportation.
The jeepney association leaders, in addition to the strike, also tried to disrupt traffic in certain areas which were clearly illegal and should have been dispersed or arrested for blocking the smooth flow of traffic.
So what was achieved in this two-day jeepney strike? It prevented many of the poor—whom the strikers are supposed to protect—from going to work to earn a living. The drivers themselves were not able to work. The strikers are now threatening the government to talk to them. Otherwise, they will mount monthly and longer strikes. It probably has not occurred to them that what they are doing is a violation of the terms of their so-called franchises as public utility operators which could be suspended anytime.
The government, instead of caving in to their demands, has hardened its position and will go ahead with the jeepney phase-out program. I have always written in the past that replacing the old jeepneys with newer ones will have the same effect on the traffic of Metro Manila simply because the jeepney is not the most efficient way to move large numbers of people.
But with a better designed, bigger and more efficiently managed jeepney operation, perhaps something can still be done to improve the travel time in Metro Manila. The government should therefore view this development as an opportunity to come up with new ideas to serve the riding public.
For instance, the Land Transportation Franchising Regulatory Board might like to encourage the local government units in the in the Metro area to be the first ones to invest in the newly designed jeepneys and managed the operation themselves so that the National Capital Region will not always be at the mercy of these militant jeepney associations. These LGUs can start with 50 units each to start the ball rolling. This will come to about 850 units which could easily be increased as management improves. Mass transportation in our urban centers after all should be government run and not given to private operators. The jeepney can still be allowed to operate in other areas of the country but must be phased out in Metro Manila and other highly urbanized cities in the country.
It is time we started modernizing our urban mass transport system. Change is something that no one can stop. Not even the militant jeepney associations. President Duterte is absolutely right about the issue of health. Equally important are safety, comfort and passenger protection in case of accidents. And if these militant groups of jeepney operators cannot understand this, then it is simply too bad for them.
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The government has just scored a huge accomplishment in the ongoing battle for Marawi City. Isnilon Hapilon, the dreaded leader of the terrorist group Abu Sayyaf together with the last surviving member of the Maute brothers, Omar, were both killed in Marawi City the other day.
After embarrassing the country for so long with his kidnapping and beheading of foreigners, Hapilon was finally killed. Depending on the complexity of both organizations, both instances of neutralization are big. For the Maute group, it is possible that the death of Omar Maute was the final nail in the coffin of the organization. The mother is in jail and the father has died. If all the brothers died in Marawi as is widely believed, then the Maute group is now dead and gone.
Another group under another leader may take over but as of now, the AFP is right in saying that the Maute group has been destroyed. The Abu Sayaff is another matter. It has been there for years. Its organizational structure is a lot more complex. It is possible that a sub leader who is not yet known by the government can take over. Nonetheless, the group has suffered a severe beating. Hapilon was not the only Abu Sayaff that was killed in Marawi City. There are many others who went to Marawi City with him who have suffered the same fate as their leader. Some may have escaped earlier, but most stayed with their leader to the end.
One important lesson that can be learned from this is that to the credit of President Duterte, he basically left the conduct of the operations to the military commanders who did a professional job. It is so unlike former President Benigno Aquino III who fancied himself as a tactical commander and ended up bungling the Mamasapano operation with very tragic results and left the country still looking for answers. Our uniformed services should give themselves a big pat on the back for a job well done. They deserve it.