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Sunday, September 22, 2019

Echaves: Hostages

LIKE all children, my eight-year-old grandson was happy about last week’s unexpected two-day vacation.

Others were not happy. Some had come from Mindanao to inquire about the cessation of pension releases since 2015 from the Social Security System. The Mindanao branch had no answers.

Still others crossed the seas to follow up family matters, and had filed a leave, but the government offices were closed.

They were hostages of the conflict between the jeepney operators and drivers, and the government. The former declared a strike, and the government suspended classes in all levels nationwide and in all government offices.

Appearing on television, President Rodrigo Duterte mouthed expletives and gritted his teeth. He was peeved.

Fortunately, he did not throw a book or a laptop at some unlucky staff, like some past president of this country.

Expectedly, he repeated the spin that the transport strike was part of the destabilization plot. Eps, that was stretching the truth.

Still, I support the government’s Public Utility Vehicle (PUV) Modernization Program, its implementation long overdue. Just look at all the old, rickety jeepneys plying our streets, and their different stages of dilapidation, including the “kalawangs” you’d risk getting tetanus from.

Government assurances to the drivers have been a-plenty from the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board and the Department of Finance.
Only those jeepneys 15 years or older will be replaced, said LTFRB. The estimated 180,000 such jeepneys will not be replaced at the same time, but will be staggered in three-years’ time or longer.

Financing of the replacements will be through a loan facility arranged with Land Bank. Priority will be given to jeepney drivers operating under government-recognized cooperatives, just so there’s an assurance that the vehicle costing over P 1 million each will eventually be completely paid off.

Through modernization, drivers can expect their fuel costs to lower and their new units to cover almost double the distance once reached by their old units.
Most beneficial to passengers is that the new units will create less pollution, thus are environmentally kinder.

On productivity, drivers will gain four days more with their new units. Presently, the old units require at least 10 days for maintenance work. The new units will require only six days.

Despite the assurances, striking jeepney drivers have turned a deaf ear. Charge it to one’s fear of the unknown, distrust of the government, or resistance from the jeepney operators.

It’s time jeepney operators gave the riding public their due. Even Juan de la Cruz knows that their investment in each jeepney purchase has long gotten its ROI, and has raked in profits longer than their total amortization period.
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