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BY Jules Dalmacio Communication
While not new, the motion for jeepney modernization in the Philippines has been stirred anew, with the Department of Transportation (DOTr) requiring all jeepneys and franchise owners to switch to newer multi-cab public transport vehicle models before the end of the year, phasing out the older models.
However, this announcement did not go uncontested; jeepney drivers and franchise owners themselves have made their grievances known. Not only are the new “modern jeepneys” difficult for humble jeepney drivers to afford (estimated at P2-3million per unit), but the announcement also came as a surprise with little provision regarding financing.
Nationwide, drivers and franchise owners called upon each other to go on a transport strike. In the face of the jeepney phaseout and unaffordable “upgrading”, the industry wanted to make a statement. But what was planned as a week-long strike was short-lived, lasting only two days, and the strike itself cost drivers a big chunk of their livelihood.
What can we learn from these recent events, especially as an industry that aims to uphold equal livelihood opportunities?
It’s easy to want to grow, but it’s easier said than done to make growth happen. While the modernization has its own benefits, its current implementation has costs that currently seem to outweigh the good.
The modernization aims to provide safer, more comfortable, and homogenized transport for the public. With better and more comfortable transportation, we can expect to see improvements in work productivity, tourism, and overall satisfaction.
However, this direction of growth steps on drivers and franchise owners to make the rest get ahead. The first lesson of this strike is that every step towards growth must be taken by everyone while stepping on no one.
One of the major concerns coming into the week of the transport strike was related to employees and students; some public officials made it apparent that the transport strike would hurt their ability to work and learn.
While it is important that transportation be made available so that the working class and the learning class may perform their duties and dues uninterrupted, it is equally important to look into the alternative.
As much as we are concerned for our livelihood, let’s be aware that someone else’s profession might be at risk. This can be paralleled to the recent plight of farmers and the rising onion prices; importing might make onions affordable to the public, but it will hurt farmers and their families. The second lesson is that every time we ask “paano naman kami (how about us)?”, let’s also ask “pero paano din kaya sila (but also, how about them)?”
The less than optimized way of how the modernization/phaseout began its rollout is rooted in policy makers and policy executives. While there are some people who are knowledgeable about how to implement standardized ways of improving traffic and road and transport regulations, they might be in the minority of those in positions of power.
The majority of decision-makers are those who do not even take public transport and thus do not know either the drivers’ or commuters’ sides of the coin. Plot twist: we democratically choose who decides these things for us.
While we may think that politics have little effect on us, this transport strike begs to tell a different story. The last lesson of the strike is that the policy and decision-makers we choose will affect us more than we think they would, in one way or another.
We still don’t know how the modernization/phaseout will play out in the coming months or years. It is but one of many policies that we, the public, will need to adjust or enjoy. Nevertheless, we cannot disregard that the lessons we’ve learned here today should help us empathize and understand how we affect each other’s lives and livelihoods.