PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte launched Tuesday a profanity-laced tirade against transport group Pinagkaisahang Samahan ng Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide (Piston) for staging demonstrations against the government's public utility vehicles (PUV) modernization program.
On the second day of nationwide transport strike led by Piston, Duterte slammed transport sector opposing the government's plan to overhaul the country's transport system.
The President stressed his administration merely sought to "protect public health and public interest" from health risks caused by old and refurbished public utility jeepneys (PUJs) procured from other nations.
"All we want, Filipinos, is to be happy. Under my watch, I want to provide Filipinos everything that is good for the country, the things that the law mandates because it is good for the country and the people, like for example, this [PUV] modernization," Duterte said in an event in Pili, Camarines Sur.
"You know, the machines, the engines that run, these PUJs are about 20 to 25 years old. We got it from the other countries, the reconditioned, sold to us. And they have been pumping so much fumes and carbon dioxide," he added.
Transport groups led by Piston staged their third nationwide transport strike this year to express strong opposition to the government's efforts to improve transport system by terminating the operations of old and dilapidated jeepneys.
A two-day transport strike was conducted from October 16 to 17 to protest the government's jeepney phase-out scheme, which they said was "anti-poor."
Unfazed by transport groups' mass protest, the President even challenged them to carry out a month-long transport strike.
Duterte likewise said he would not listen to their appeal, saying his ultimate goal was to improve the lives of majority of the Filipino people.
"You have to get up, do things the way this government wants you to do. [Jeepneys in the country are] dilapidated, have no meter, no kilometer speed, no anything. Sometimes, there have so many reported mishaps. In most of the mishaps, they would claim, 'the brake is not functioning,'" the President said.
"And here comes Piston and the rest of the Left, they make it a big deal. So I said, go ahead, demonstrate. If you do that twice or thrice a month, that's fine with me… I'll give you one month," he added.
On June 19, the Department of Transportation launched the PUV modernization program, which was aimed at phasing out decades-old jeepneys and replace them with environment-friendly and efficient-driven transport systems.
The modernization program was, however, faced oppositions from several transport groups.
Duterte warned them to concede to government, insisting that the PUV modernization would be fully enforced by January 1 next year.
He also threatened to tow old jeepneys that will still operate in 2018.
"I'll give you until the end of the month or until the end of the year, you have to follow because by January 1, if I see jeepney that is not registered, old, I will tow it in front of you… If the government says it want to protect public health and public interest, you have to follow it," he said.
"I would not allow it. By January 1, if you did not modernize [your jeepneys], back off. You are poor? Son of a b****, fine, continue to endure poverty and hunger, I don't care. It's the majority of people. Do not let them suffer. If the government says it should be done, it should be done," the President added. (SunStar Philippines)