Tuesday, 28 February 2017

"The strike must go on even the heavens may fall!"

"The strike must go on even the heavens may fall!"

(Notes on the recent Transport strike 
and the jeepney driver's, operator's, assember's, and commuter's call 
for a just transport program)

At first, this person is ought to say that with neoliberal policies affecting the transport sector, it is obvious that a transport strike will commence, affecting not just drivers, operators, jeepney assemblers, but also the commuters and the government itself.

As shown by recent events like the proposed "modernisation" plan that involves a mass-scale jeepney phaseout, drivers whom affected by the said plan rather insist to scrap the attempt as well as the urgent need for supporting jeepney assemblers with its desire for modernising the said vehicle.

Currently, the system created a two schemes wherein jeepney operators need to replace jeepneys 15 years and older and buy electric jeepneys which cost millions of pesos; that obviously, only big companies can afford vehicle replacement while small operators will be edged out with drivers being forced to buy "electronic jeepneys" and Euro 4 engines, which  both would cost millions of pesos, way more than the average income of a jeepney driver.

Meanwhile, another plan, via House Bill 4334 (Traffic Crisis Act of 2016 Maki-isa, Makisama, Magka-isa) and Senate Bill 1284 (Traffic and Congestion Crisis Act of 2016), calls for existing routes and public transportation franchises would be assessed by the Transportation Department, in pursuit of "achieving a sustainable, orderly, predictable and safe transport systems for the country", according to transportation committee chairman Rep. Cesar V. Sarmiento (Lone District, Catanduanes).

However, both bills are opposed by Transport organisation PISTON, citing the fact that these bills would impact on commuters and the livelihood of jeepney operators. With PISTON's George San Mateo San Mateo cited the HB 4334's provisions on the rationalization of public utility vehicle (PUV) routes within the first six months of the bill’s effectivity, the power of the Transportation secretary to revoke franchises and the anticipated displacement of PUV drivers and operators.
Also to think that under this new scheme, jeepney franchises are projected to be regulated and reduced while Franchises requires a minimum of 20 units, amounting to P7 million of capital, effectively displacing single franchise owners. The scheme hath also Setting requirements for jeepney operators to have a minimum of seven(7) jeepneys worth Php. 1.8 million each and a capitalization of Php. 7 million for a franchise, that somehow isn't "helping small operators, drivers and transport coops", but rather unveiled a corporatization scheme that as broad as daylight.

All in all, attempts made the system has worstly affected not only drivers and operators, but also the people who are dependent on jeepneys for public transport. And also because of it, even Jeepney assemblers who are in need of help are also affected, knowing that the government failed to provide them serious assistance. And although true that modernisation in mass transport is inevitable, what kind of transport modernisation that is without consulting the drivers and operators associations? Commuters as well as small time jeepney assemblers? These concerned individuals and groups understands the need for improvement in mass transport, but what the concerned also sees is that only oligarchs benefited from that neoliberal kind of modernisation that has nothing to do with resolving the transport issue; and to think that Modernisation without industrialisation, or rather say incentives for small-time jeepney assemblers and support for needy jeepneg drivers and operators mocks the idea of improving, what more of modernising mass transport such as the jeepney.

In an article from Bulatlat last 2015 (and still relevant), jeepney assemblers, like drivers and operators, seriously expressed concerns as neoliberalism shatters desires of improving the local jeepney sector and its people behind the vehicle:

"A maker of custom-built jeepneys told Bulatlat.com that they have tried talking to vehicle makers to make new machines suited for the jeepney, but, he said, nothing has come out of such talks. He said government support in prompting that would have helped.

Unfortunately, the DOTC order as it stands now mandates the purchase instead of another jeepney altogether. As such, it seems to automatically rule out efforts of current jeepney assemblers and mechanics to be in on the design, building, testing and manufacturing or assembling of the jeepney, as had been the experience behind all jeepneys plying Philippine roads."

It was also from Bulatlat wherein concerned jeepney operators, like the drivers themselves, insist how hard operating jeeps, what more of assembling and maintaining it, only to make their efforts shattered by the system who supposed to support them.

That Florencia “Leng” Francisco, 42, jeepney operator and transport leader from Eastern Rizal, said, “Our jeeps are being maintained as well as we can. We do what we can to make it run well, for our riders.” While Don Savaleon, 62, operator and owner of "Skipper motors", stated that in order to “modernize” the jeepney, government support is crucial. Knowing that instead of killing off small jeepney manufacturers and operators, the government could help them in acquiring new machines at friendly prices and contracts.

That issue continues as these drivers, operators, assemblers, as well as their families continue to express concern, or even disgust as neoliberalism tries to shatter desires of a self-reliant economy also desired by concerned citizens alike, making a strike necessary alongside pro-people legislations pressuring the government to scrap neoliberal policies and adapt patriotic ones that can resolve issues including those on transport.
And in it perhaps, makes one remember that from these people striking in Metro Manila and in the provinces aren't even born and raised to become truck, taxi, and jeepney drivers, for some of them were once mechanics like those came home from the middle east, or almost professionals as they gave up College, even retirees seeing their pensions as not enough. And instead of neoliberal policies like privatisation, deregulation, and selling to multi/transnational entities, domestic-based Industrialisation will provide them jobs and developing improvents over existing and new means of mass transport, while increasing pensions will enjoy their retirements as retired individuals.

But the problem is, that in a neoliberal setting dominated by multi/transnational interests and supported by domestic oligarchs, do you think this will realise such populistic goals surrounding mass transport after phasing out old vehicles and selling them really expensive ones? Obviously, those who called for a phase out intentionally failed to heed the clamour of the striking drivers as well as its concerned organisations thinking that it is mass transport has to be blamed for all the traffic as well as indiscipline in roads. They failed to understand if not intentionally aloof in their ceaseless clamouring in the streets urging fellow drivers and commuters to support if not to join the strike.