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Saturday, February 24, 2024

The never-ending jeepney strikes

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“When it comes to mass transportation in big metro areas around the world, it is the government that owns and operates mass transportation”

This never ending jeepney strikes or the threat have become a test of will to see who will back down with regard to the government’s jeepney modernization program.

Judging by what happened in the just concluded three-day strike, the government appears to be losing its nerve.

It’s now appearing that LTFRB may agree to grant a five-year jeepney franchise extension which would mean the full implementation of the jeepney modernization program will be considerably delayed. Supposing there will be another threat of a strike before the five-year period is over?

Another five-year extension?

The jeepney modernization program was intended to provide a comfortable, safe and cleaner public transportation to the public that the traditional jeepneys cannot provide including better working conditions to the drivers.

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Piston, Manibela and other allies, however, are completely opposed to the program, citing costs and loss of livelihood as reasons.

We know, of course, this is not actually the reason.

It is the threat to their corporate extinction that is the real reason.

They know that with the formation of transport cooperatives, there would no longer be any need for Piston, Manibela and all the others.

That is what they are afraid of and not the cost of the modern jeepneys or loss of livelihood by drivers. If these allegations were true, the program would have been dead on its tracks long ago and not flourishing as they are.

In fact the number of transport cooperatives is increasing.

The LTFRB must, therefore, fortify its resolve and not give in to the demands of Piston and its allies. Instead, LTFRB should fast track the jeepney modernization program by offering better incentives to entice the formation of more transportation cooperatives.

The LTFRB chairman should realize that giving in will not solve his problems.

Instead, LTFRB and DOTr should be planning a more robust government response during strikes.

These constant tigil pasadas should also be food for thought for the government to rethink its policy of relying on private investments to provide mass transportation in the National Capital Region.

If we scan the mass transportation systems in many metropolitan areas around the world, it is the government that owns and operate the mass transit systems be it rail or bus.

The NCR, however, is one of the few exceptions that do not.

This over reliance on the private sector is partly the reason why the government ends up the one pleading during negotiations because it is helpless to prevent the strike or enforce the provisions of the Public Service Law against the striking operators and Piston, Manibela and allies know this.

But it was not always like this.

When the Metro Manila Commission was established in the 1970s, the Metro Transit Corporation was set up.

This was a wholly government owned bus company that operated in the Metro area.

Those who are old enough may remember the popular and efficient air conditioned Love Buses.

With the MTC, all the operating private bus companies were dissolved and required to join the ten bus cooperatives that were formed.

With that, two things happened.

The first was all bus routes were rationalized so that each of the 10 cooperatives were assigned their own specific routes avoiding destructive competition.

The Love Buses, being air conditioned, had flexible routes and the other MTC buses could be rerouted to fill other routes when needed.

The second was this arrangement gave the government control of the public transportation operations in the entire Metro area unlike today.

Had this system been maintained, enlarged and improved, we would not be having all the problems we are experiencing like these frequent tigil pasadas by traditional jeepney associations.

Unfortunately, with the change of administration, everything went back to the old system.

Today, the current DOTr thinking is privatization is more efficient and is the preferred solution.

When it comes to mass transportation in big metro areas around the world, however, it is the government that owns and operates mass transportation.

The DOTr should rethink its philosophy if it wants control of public transportation as well as ending strikes once and for all.

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