Palace open to dialogue with transport groups

THE government was willing to hold a "more healthy" dialogue with transport groups to discuss further the proposed overhaul of the country's transport system, Malacañang said on Wednesday.

In a statement, Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said the public should understand that the public utility vehicle (PUV) modernization program would be beneficial for all.

Abella's statement came a day after President Rodrigo Duterte's staunch remarks against strong opposition from various transport groups in relation to PUV modernization.

Explaining that the President simply wanted to lessen the burden of the commuters, Abella appealed to the public not to accept "ideological influences" that merely sought to thwart the government's modernization program.

"Government is open to more healthy dialogue, discussion and responsible engagements with transport groups that wish to learn and contribute to the development of the PUV Modernization Program," the presidential spokesman said.

"This is a wide window of opportunity for everyone -- drivers, the operators, [and] the riding public. The public needs to discern that some ideological influences can derail the greater good. Let us move forward towards the comfortable life that [Duterte] is fighting for," he added.

On Tuesday, Duterte issued a warning to transport groups to abide the government's plan to phase out old and dilapidated jeepneys.

The President said those who would not follow his orders would meet sanctions, beginning January 1, 2017.

"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 wants to protect public health and public interest, you have to follow it," Duterte 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 the people. Do not let them suffer. If the government says it should be done, it should be done," he added.

Transport groups led by Pinagkaisang Samahan ng Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide (Piston) staged two-day nationwide strike from October 16 to 17 to protest the government's plan to end the operations of old jeepneys.

Abella said Duterte's ultimate goal was to implement a "decisive" action that would address the problematic transport system in the country.

He added that the President did not want to repeat the failed attempts of past administrations to push for PUV modernization because of "ideologically based transport strikes and protests."

"With the Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program, everybody benefits - from drivers, operators and most especially the millions of commuters," Abella said.

"When public good is at stake, the Duterte administration will not compromise. This is the message of the President’s speech yesterday. It underscores the national leadership’s strong political will and decisive stance to initiate reform in the public transportation sector," he added. (SunStar Philippines)
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