Dialogue, not threats
President Rodrigo Duterte may have the right intentions and the commuter’s welfare in heart and mind when he threatened operators and drivers with arrest should they continue to defy the government’s mass transport modernization program.
And to be fair, the President responded in kind to militant transport groups, like Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide (Piston), who threatened to stage monthly transport strikes should he refuse to meet them personally to discuss said modernization program.
But what the riding public needs now — and we trust that the militant transport groups have not forgotten them amid their constant rallies to get government attention and to rally public support to their cause — is a measured, transparent and intensive dialogue among all stakeholders, including the public on the issue.
If militant transport groups continue to insist on the government and the people to allow them to operate their aging, dilapidated units, then they will only invite further public antipathy and resentment against them.
Why should commuters be made to suffer and continually adjust to riding in aging jeepney units when they can avail of better mass transport options, such as in the case of Cebu City, the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)?
Though the BRT won’t be operational in a few more years and is not a 100 percent guaranteed end-all solution to the mass transport problem, it is a potential and hopefully affordable mass transport option for the commuters.
But we digress. It’s not as if the government is abandoning the small-time drivers and operators to fend for themselves, though the operators and drivers would prefer that the government and the people see things their way.
There is a subsidy program that would allow them to purchase e-jeepneys through payment schemes that the militant transport groups are adamantly against, as they claim that they cannot afford it and that they would be forced to charge higher fares if they do acquire it.
But whether they want to or not, they simply cannot afford not to budge and avoid change. In that respect, it’s up to the government to provide alternative and effective public transport systems like the BRT, the subway trains and better infrastructure network that would finally ease and decongest traffic so the commuters have better options than aging, dilapidated passenger jeepneys.
Rather than enforcing the ban on 15-year-old and older passenger jeepneys next year, the government can consider an extension in the phaseout if only to give the operators more time, but a definite deadline must be set and should not be abused through extensions.
And if there would be a dialogue, the President may choose whether or not to be involved. Public/mass transport modernization will come eventually whether the operators and drivers want to or not because the public demands for it and they deserve it.
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