Friday, October 22, 2021

Libre: King of the Road no more

We lovingly called him “Barney” after the Flintstones’ character. He tirelessly carried people in the streets of Cebu City and later, our family members. I’m referring to the jeepney that our family possessed in the ‘60s. I even believed my father Angel Jr., who told us that Barney was the same vehicle that General Douglas McArthur used when he returned to the Philippines during World War II. Well, it was partly true, as jeepneys were surplus army vehicles left by the US military after the war.

Only memories are left for me on Barney that once served as an AC or Auto Calesa plying the downtown-Guadalupe route and, in his twilight years, as our family vehicle. In a few years, the traditional jeepneys will likewise be a thing of the past as modern “jeepneys” imposed by the government have slowly, but surely taken over thoroughfares in urban areas. The King of the Road will be king no more.

It is already three years since the Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program was launched by the Department of Transportation. The agency’s aim is for the country to have a public transportation system that is efficient and environmentally friendly by 2020. Of course, that comes at a price of ₱P1.4 million to P1.6 million for the replacement for each unit of the 220,000 traditional jeepneys.

The replacement vehicles will definitely be far better with at least a Euro 4-compliant engine or an electric engine to lessen pollution and could include CCTV cameras, Panta Transportation Payment Terminal, speed limiters and GPS monitors. Who can complain?

Well, the small-time operators and drivers can, but they just can’t put a break to the running engine of change. President Duterte has firmly resolved to modernize the public transport system. Addressing those opposed, he once quipped: “If you can’t modernize, leave. You’re poor? Go ahead, suffer in poverty and hunger, I don’t care.”

This is the end of the road for the jeepneys. They should not call the replacements as jeepneys. These vehicles do not have any resemblance of the Willy’s Jeep that Leonardo Sarao transformed into a colorful public utility jeepney in 1953 that became a symbol of Filipino ingenuity and artistry. To honor the legacy of Sarao and other jeepney pioneers as well as preserve the image of the traditional jeepney, I suggest that the Department of Transportation, if not the Office of the President, issue a directive requiring artistic paintings on the body side of the replacement vehicles.

For displaced drivers, don’t let them suffer in poverty and hunger, Mr. President. You were only joking, were you not?


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