CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – Before the country’s public transport could be modernized, the Duterte government must ensure first that the needs of the Filipino people are addressed, a militant group leader said as the two-day nationwide transport protest started on Monday, October 16.
“The government talks of PUJ modernization but they have not talked of improving the lives of the ordinary Filipino who are suffering from hardships,” said Wildon Barros, secretary-general of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) in Northern Mindanao.
Barros said the administration must prioritize the well-being of its constituents before overhauling the mass transit system.
“There are plenty of problems the government must solve first, among them, the end of labor contractualization and raising the salary of workers,” he added.
Transports groups joined the two-day strike starting Monday to oppose the planned modernization of the public utility jeepneys (PUJs) which they said as “anti-poor.”
In Northern Mindanao, more than 2,000 drivers joined their fellow drivers from other areas in staging the transport strike to express their opposition to the PUJ modernization.
The protest action in the region was spearheaded by the Solidarity of Transport in Region X-Pagkakaisa ng Samahan ng Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide (Starex-Piston), an affiliate of the No to Jeepney Phaseout Coalition.
Protest paralyzes 90% traffic
As of 12 noon Monday, the protest has paralyzed about 90 percent of the public transport here, said Ringo Lago, Starex-Piston secretary-general.
Lago said that aside from the 2,500-strong members of the Starex-Piston, those not affiliated with their group have also joined the protest action, many of them preferring to stay at home.
He said the effects of the PUJ modernization will affect not just the drivers and operators but other sectors as well, such as students, workers and even farmers.
Under the modernization program, operators are required to purchase solar-powered, Euro 4-compliant and electric jeepneys which are imported and costly. An e-jeepney can cost P1.5 million, while an ordinary jeepney can only be bought for about P200,000.
Besides, the new brands of PUJS are not that durable compared to the traditional jeepneys, he said.
These e-jeepneys, Lago said, tends to overheat easily and break down in floodwaters.
Norma Napone, an official of the Baungon Transport Operators and Drivers Association (BTODA) based in Baungon, Bukidnon, said they joined the protest action because the new PUJs cannot survive in dirt roads and mountainous areas.
Farmers from the far-flung communities depend on jeepneys to transport their produce from their farm to the markets in city.
“We heard that these e-jeeps will overheat in long-distance trips and will break down if overloaded. It is not just practical for us to use e-jeeps which are delicate vehicles,” Napone said.
Lago said the so-called PUJ modernization is actually an agenda of the government to favor huge corporations that would eventually kill the livelihood of the small-time drivers and operators.
According to the Cagayan de Oro City Police Office, the transport strike, held in strategic parts of the city, was generally peaceful.
There were also no reports of motorists being victimized by “suyak” (road spike) during the conduct of the transport protest. (davaotoday.com)