Briones: Oh so quiet

WHERE are the protests? The noise barrages? Or at least, the sit-ins?

I would have expected to see picket rallies on the streets since the public utility vehicle modernization program took effect last Jan. 2 but so far, there have been none.

I also scoured the news for Greg Perez, president of Piston Cebu, but he was nowhere to be found.

Normally, when the topic crops up, Perez is immediately up in arms, calling for the destabilization of the transport sector. But not even a squeak on this recent development.

There’s a possibility that he and the other stakeholders are still in holiday mode. After all, the season is not yet over here in Cebu, which will be celebrating the Fiesta Señor starting today.

Maybe he’ll make a showing once the DOTr starts retiring “problematic” jeepeys, or vehicles that are 15 years old and above, which it will do in the next three years after admitting that it couldn’t physically remove the “guilty” all at the same time.

Then again, it’s also possible that Perez and his colleagues are resigned to the fact that the government is not budging on the issue, although I really doubt this is the case.

It’s more probable that they just want to avoid the fate of George San Mateo, Piston national president and national council member of labor group KMU, who was arrested last month.

His crime? San Mateo “defied” the government’s warning not to cause public inconvenience when he called for nationwide transport strikes.

“Although there is freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, it is limited in the case of holders of certificate of public convenience because the law said so and the law metes the penalty. So now that the law is being implemented, they should only blame themselves for it,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said of San Mateo’s arrest.

So what is it about this program that has rattled a few?

For starters, it will replace jeepneys 15 years and older with electric-powered or Euro 4 compliant vehicles that will be equipped with automated fare collection systems, digital security and dashboard cameras, Wi-Fi internet connectivity, GPS tracking devices and speed limiters.

The new models’ diesel engines will also discharge less harmful gases to the atmosphere, said Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel in a press release last year.

The program will also compel PUV operators and drivers to organize themselves into cooperatives or firms “to build accountability, enforcement and compliance” since fewer franchises will be issued to them.

The transition will be painful to many, I know, but it’s a bitter pill that they must swallow.
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