MONDAY saw the implementation of the anti-distracted driving law which enforced no jeepney signboards on windshields. So here I was, on the sidewalk in Matina, trying my best to catch which one of the onrushing jeeps was going to my route downtown.
There are several routes coming from South to downtown. Two or three routes will turn right in Magallanes, another two will cross Quirino Avenue. Our city has a complicated route system, around 15 where most will merge downtown, and taking a wrong ride will mean we have to inconvenience ourselves to get down and walk to the nearest jeepney stop, and further delaying our trip.
This new law on travel safety may have the right reasons, but commuters and jeepney drivers alike are disapproving on the way it is turning out this early.
As transport leader Charito Junares, Transmission-PISTON Davao, said in a media interview, the implementation was made without consultation or even studies on the cases of vehicular accidents in Davao.
"I have been driving since 1997. I haven't encountered an accident due to these signboards. If there are such rules, we prefer that we had been consulted," he pointed out.
In the past, jeepney drivers were consulted on matters such as rerouting schemes, traffic problems and on oil price hikes. So there is basis for the drivers, and also commuters, to call out agencies like the LTFRB and LTO to consult the public on such laws.
This brings us also to bigger issues regarding public transport serving the majority of the public. There are concerns that the LTFRB is enforcing stricter rules on the popular Uber and Grab taxi system, which is preferred by more drivers for their fair handling and charging of fares from passengers over boorish taxi drivers that charge excessive fares and refusal to accommodate passengers.
Then there is a major concern of the planned modernization of public transport wherein many jeepneys will be phased out.
While the modernization is aimed to reduce pollution by eliminating old vehicles, Junares points out that drivers like them and operators will find it difficult to purchase environmentally-friendly vehicles.
He points out that buying one vehicle, even on a loan, will cost 1.6 million pesos. It is equivalent to the price of a Montero or a Navarra. Imagine how much a driver will take home from plying his route while paying for this loan?
Our problem with the transport systems shows where we are. A commuting public relying on small jeepneys that are old and sometimes belching smoke, and plying routes that are congested in traffic, really shows that we are facing old problems in the modernizing times.
Solutions may be complex to address traffic, transportation systems, alternative livelihood for the drivers and the urban poor. But the key is consultation, and fast implementation. Or else, we'll still be stuck in traffic or stranded without moving forward.