Tell it to SunStar: Web of puzzlement

By Reni M. Valenzuela
Tell it to SunStar
Tell it to SunStarSunStar file photo

The government should pursue its PUV (Public Utility Vehicle) modernization program, but for the right purpose, with the right reasons, in the right way.

However, with the problems, fuss and hooplas that have been happening on account of it, together with all the valid questions and misgivings that go with the spirit, manner and haste it is being implemented, the program has to be pulled up and halted -- until the air, land and water are cleared of pollutants. “Kahit maraming tutol (at buhol-buhol), PUV modernization tuloy,” our officials assert.

There are webs of puzzlement (and guile?) the people have to untangle, and there are lingering, compelling questions that the Department of Transportation (DOTR) and Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) need to answer honestly, transparently, probingly and satisfactorily -- or else the President, Congress and Judiciary should join the protesters in clamoring to stop the program and declare it illegal and immoral.

Here are the questions:

While there is nothing wrong with retiring our jeepneys that are no longer roadworthy for being dilapidated, and replacing them with the new modernized ones, may I ask: Who is behind the moronic idea of calling something for what it is not? Since when has a jeepney become a minibus and vice versa? Is it not delusory to avoid the use of the term “junking of the jeepneys” to properly describe the act, instead of “replacing the old with new “jeepneys”?

Why put a financial burden on the present drivers and operators which majority of them will not be able to bear even with what the government calls “consolidations” and “cooperatives”? Isn’t the scheme tantamount to rendering them jobless by junking their persons (also) to be replaced with the new and “chosen/anointed ones” as key players?

What justification do our officials have to dump the iconic jeepney (native, artistic, romantic, stylish) that epitomizes the Filipino for his greatness, originality and unique identity, with the cultural, heroic significance and richness of our heritage and history attached to the Filipino jeepney -- which experience of it and physical feature could/should serve as one telling attraction (if maintained and developed) for foreigners to visit and tour our country? Are they blind?

If not for a crooked heart and motives, what is “urgent” and “emergency” about the program so much so that the officials concerned have to put deadlines in everything that they do to hurry and scurry its enforcement?

Why favor a Chinese company to produce and supply the government with the modern “jeepney” instead of our local manufacturers like the equally iconic Francisco Motors?

Is it not accurate to say that Orlando Marquez who is the president of Liga ng Transportasyon at Operators sa Pilipinas cannot be more correct when he said: “Yung industriya natin na dapat ay gumagalaw at bumubuhay ng Pilipino, pero ang pinayayaman natin ay ang mga industriya ng minibus na galing ng China. Iyon ang pinayayaman natin, hindi ba? Hindi ang Pilipino?”

(Our industry should be moving and sustaining Filipinos, but we are enriching the minibus industry of China instead. That’s who we are enriching, right? Not the Filipinos.)

Finally (for now), let me just quote a newspaper columnist who asked this question in his recent column as his parting lines, “Why is the Philippines getting minibuses from China at a high cost of P2.4 million per unit when Filipino manufacturers can produce a similar one for less than a million pesos?”

What could be behind it all, indeed?

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