Filipino Jeepney and bus drivers start week-long transport strike – The Diplomat
Bit ASEAN | Economy | Southeast Asia
Transportation groups are opposing the government’s modernization plan, which they say could threaten the country’s iconic jeepney.
Philippine transportation groups yesterday launched a week-long nationwide strike to protest a government transportation modernization program that drivers say could endanger the country’s jeepneys, an important aspect of Philippine culture and a source of livelihood for thousands of people.
The Associated Press reported that drivers and fans celebrated the start of the strike. noisy rally in Quezon City, a suburb of Manila, after which they proceeded in a convoy to the State Transportation Regulation Office to protest. At least 100,000 jeepney drivers and operators are expected to take part in the strike.
“We call on the public to support the transport strike in every possible way,” said Renato Reyes Jr. Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, the leftist Bayan political alliance that supported the strike, told the AP. “The inconvenience of stopping transport is temporary, but the loss of livelihood for drivers and operators will be long-term.”
The reason for the strike is Public Transport Modernization Program, launched by the Ministry of Transportation in 2017 and aimed at replacing old passenger jeepneys and buses with modern cars. Replacement vehicles must have Euro 4 compliant electric motors or an internal combustion engine in addition to other safety features.
Opponents of the plan say most jeepney drivers will not be able to afford new passenger jeepneys, even with promised government subsidies. According to reporting in The Guardiana traditional diesel-powered jeepney costs between Php150,000 and Php250,000, while a modern euro4 compliant jeepney can cost 10 times more.
Decorated with colorful garlands, the jeepney is a totemic example of Filipino flamboyance and ingenuity. Originally adapted from military jeeps left behind by the US Army after World War II, jeepneys have become an important part of the transportation system in many Philippine cities where public transportation options are often limited or inefficient.
The jeepney’s centrality to the transportation network of Manila and other cities means that a strike that could over 40,000 light jeepneys and minibuses from the streets of Manila are likely to create serious problems. Indeed, local authorities in Manila and its various satellite suburbs have ordered schools switch to distance learning, something they are very familiar with after extended COVID-19 lockdowns for the duration of the strike. The local government of Quezon City, the most populous city in the Philippines, has also encouraged businesses to go online whenever possible. Local authorities also made cars affordable to help people go about their business.
The Department of Transportation is right that some form of jeepney emission boost is needed. These road kings are spewing thick diesel fumes, contributing to the deteriorating air quality in many Philippine cities. The question is how to improve the technology of these vehicles without ruining the thousands of drivers who rely on them for their livelihood – often at very little margin. In accordance with good markJeepney drivers take home an average daily wage of 755 pesos (about $13.70).
While Filipino lawmakers are protecting the interests of jeepney drivers, comments from government officials do not inspire confidence in a give and take. Vice President Sarah Duterte, who is also the country’s education minister, called the strike “communist-inspired” and “a painful interference in our efforts to address learning gaps and other problems in our education system.” The fact that some members of the Filipino establishment are willing to deflect calls for better working conditions in this way only highlights the need for mass strikes by drivers.