Transport Strike – Feb 27, 2017 – Jeepney phase out & plight of drivers

It’s true, transport groups will hold another transport strike on Monday, February 27. 2017 beginning at 6AM, it is being organized by transport groups PISTON, STOP and GO Coalition, and No To Jeepney Phase Out Coalition (NJPOC). According to the groups, their fellow drivers and operators will also hold a transport strike in the following cities nationwide including Baguio City, Cebu City, Iloilo City, Tacloban City, and Cagayan de Oro City.

Phase out of 15-year old PUJs and PUBs

The transport strike is in protest of the planned phase out of Public Utility Jeeps and Buses that are over 15 years of age. This was laid down in DOTC Order 2002-03 which is further implemented by LTFRB Resolution No 2013-01 which basically mandates that PUB and PUJ units that are 15 years of age and over would no longer be given a Certificate of Public Convenience essentially removing these vehicles off our roads.

LTFRB spokesperson Aileen Lizada said the phase out of old jeepneys is part of the government program to “modernize” public transport. In place of the old jeeps that run on diesel, the government is pushing the promotion of e-jeeps which run on eletricity.

To help drivers and operators make the switch to E-jeepneys, Lizada said the government would buy the old jeeps and offer loans to help with the purchase. Which seems fair and reasonable, though I haven’t come across any news report or publicly available information about the details of this loan and ‘buy back’ scheme of the government.

Loss of livelihood

Transport groups fear that since most of the jeeps they use are over 15 years old, despite being in good road-worthy conditions, a lot from their sector would lose their means of livelihood. The e-jeep being offered by the government are too expensive for small operators to buy. They also have doubts about its reliability and mileage. Even with loans from the government, the E-jeeps would only contribute to an increase in fares as the costs would be passed on to the commuters. And with the additional requirements for operators to have at least 10 units to avail of the loans, this will only force the small operators out of business and deprive them of a means of living.

Public safety vs means of livelihood

The government claims that the phase out of old jeeps is to ensure the commuters have a safe public transport. Statistics on road safety, in particular, accidents involving PUJs are not readily available online. The only stats I’ve managed to find is from a post by Top Gear from data gathered by DOTC in 2012! The bit of statistics relevant to road safety are as follows:

79% – Road crash fatalities caused by driver error

11% – Road crash fatalities caused by defective vehicles

With no data on how many of these road accidents due to defective vehicles involved public utility jeepneys, we really can’t say if 15-year-old jeepneys are really a safety risk for the riding public. Given that there are far more road accidents caused by driver error. one could say it doesn’t matter if your vehicle is old or brand new.

Mr. George San Mateo, national president of the militant Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide (Piston) in an article by Fred Dabu in UP Forum, explains why jeep drivers are among the poor and vulnerable of our society:

“Ang mga jeepney driver ay ‘mala-manggagawa’ kumpara sa mga bus driver na ‘manggagawa’ kasi may employee-employer relationship sa mga bus company habang walang employee-employer relationship sa mga jeepney driver. Karamihan dating magsasaka, iniwan ang lupa at pumunta sa sentrong lunsod.”

He went on to add:

San Mateo estimated the daily gross income of jeepney drivers on a 24-hour-run at Php500-600 or only equivalent to a Php250 per day take-home income for a 12-hour-shift, an amount way below the minimum wage standard for workers. He said there was no standard “boundary” or amount given to the jeepney operator. “Walang fixed amount, depende sa usapan, depende sa seating capacity, route, sitwasyon ng trapik.” For instance, short routes would require payments for operators as low as Php600 while long routes would require Php1,000 or more as boundary for a 24-hour-run.

The struggle for a more just means of ‘modernizing’ the public transport sector against the rights of the jeep drivers and operators to make a living has reached the Court of Appeals where in August of 2016 it sided with the government ruling that in the name public safety, the government’s right to police and regulate public transport must prevail over the rights of the few to earn a living.

Hence the transport strike, the 2nd this February, that will take place tomorrow.

Sympathize with the jeep drivers and operators

Tomorrow will be another difficult day for many of us commuters. While some schools have already announced class cancellations for tomorrow to spare their students and faculty of the inconvenience the transport strike would cause, it does nothing to address the issue. Sure some of us would be able to take a taxi, an Uber, a GrabCar to get to work tomorrow all while being annoyed and angry at the striking jeepney drivers, it also does nothing to solve the issue.

While we will be inconvenienced tomorrow by the transport strike, take a minute to think that the striking drivers would sacrifice a day of earnings to send their message across and to call out attention to their cause: if the government will have its way, they would lose their livelihood. There will be lesser jeepneys to go around, commuting will be a lot more difficult and costly even after the transport strike.

This issue is not just about old jeepneys, it’s about the terrible mess that our public transport has become. There’s a better way of modernizing our public transport. It doesn’t have to be just about the safety of the commuting public over the livelihood of drivers and operators.

An argument over Php1.00

Yesterday’s journey back home in Manila turned out to be an interesting case of testing our values of respect for one another, the law and decency.

One of my fellow passengers on the commute from Tenement in C-5 to the MRT/LRT station in Pasay City along the East Service road was an old man and a senior citizen. The driver of the jeep was a decade younger than him, I think. For the purposes of this post, I’d refer to the passenger as ‘Manong senior citizen‘ and the driver as ‘Manong Drayber‘. Yes, I need to work on better references.

It all started when Manong Senior citizen told Manong Drayber that his change was short by Php1.00 (0.023 USD) by virtue of him being a senior citizen who is entitled to a discount on the fare under R.A. 9257 or the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2003. We all thought that Manong Drayber would readily give back the Php.100 but instead he replied; “Nasaan po ang [senior citizen] ID niyo?” The the following exchange took place:

Manong Senior Citizen: Hindi mo pa ba nakikita? [Can’t you see?] (referring to his obviously aged appearance and even took off his cap to show his grey hair)
Manong Drayber: Pareho naman po tayong may puting buhok. Ipakita niyo na lang po ang ID niyo. [Both of us have grey hair. Just show me your ID instead.]
Manong Senior Citizen: Ay sige, heto o. (he then took out his senior citizen’s ID) Para sa pisong iyan eh papalakihin mo pa. [Nevermind, here you go. Just for Php1.00 you would make a big deal out of it.]
Manond Drayber: Sumusunod lang po kami sa patakaran, walang ID, walang discount. Gumagalang naman po…[We are just following the rules, no ID, no discount. We also respect…]
Manong Senior Citizen: Kung ganoon wag na. Sa iyo na lang ang piso mo. Kawawa ka naman. [Never mind then. You can keep your Php1.00. You badly need it.]
Manong Drayber: Ay hindi po. Sige, eto na ang piso. Karapatan niyo po iyan. Ibibigay ko naman, ipakita niyo lang ang ID niyo. Kung ano-ano na ang sinasabi niyo dyan. [No, take it. It’s your right. I would give you the discount had you shown your ID first. You’re the one who’s making a big deal out of this.]
Manong Senior Citizen: Hindi na. Sa iyo na. Para kumita ka naman. Ibibigay mo din naman pala, mamimilosopo ka pa. Ibalik mo na yung piso sa kanya. [No, nevermind. So that you’d make a living. You did give me a discount and yet you have to be a smartass about it. Give him back his Php1.00

In between Manong Drayber and Manong Senior Citizen was a middle-aged man with his family. As in the case for anyone who sits between the driver and another passenger in a jeep, he has the customary job of passing on the fare or change to and fro. While the two Manongs were arguing, he was torn whether to give the one peso coin to the passenger or back to the driver. At the end of the two Manongs’ argument, he did a Pontius Pilate and simply put the coin on a small covered bucket thus ending his part in the whole drama.

This was the first time I encountered a jeep driver who actually asked for a senior citizen’s ID before giving the discount. Jeep drivers are folksy, well most of them are, and dispense with the formalities of asking for proof of being a senior citizen as most of us would easily recognize a senior citizen upon first look. Filipino customs and values which pays respect for the elderly also dictate that we try our best not to bother them.

Was Manong Drayber right in asking for an ID first before giving the discount? The relevant portion of R.A. 9257 says:

In the availment of the privileges mentioned above, the senior citizen or elderly person may submit as proof of his/her entitlement thereto any of the following:

(a) an ID issued by the city or municipal mayor or of the barangay captain of the place where the senior citizen or the elderly resides;

You would even see other business establishments putting up signs reminding senior citizens to present their IDs when claiming their discounts and privileges so it seems that the law is clearly on Manong Drayber’s side. However, there’s a caveat, as our customs seems to have found its way into the law itself through the operative word “may” in the above-quoted provision of R.A. 9257. You don’t even need to go to law school just to understand that the word ‘may’ means that it’s not mandatory for the senior citizen to present proof of being at least 60 years old in order to avail of their privileges.

Manong Senior Citizen had a point. In his looks alone he was definitely pushing 60+ years of living on this planet. On the other hand, Manong Drayber also had a point, there’s nothing wrong in asking or expecting people to present proof to back up their claims.

Whose side are you on?

*Image by Alma Gamil. Some rights reserved.

600,000 Die from Second-hand Smoke Yearly

No Smoking
You are stupid not to understand this
One of the perils and hassles of riding using public tranportation is encountering passengers who smoke cigarettes inside public jeepneys and non-air-conditioned buses. Most often than not, the drivers themselves are the ones who still smoke despite the stickers and signs that says “No Smoking” plastered right inside the jeepney they’re driving!

This is despite the fact that Republic Act 9211 or the Tobacco Regulation Act of 2003 which took effect years ago, expressly prohibits smoking inside public transportation. Sec 5. (e) of the law specifically says:

Public conveyance and public facilities including airport and ship terminals and train and bus stations, restaurant and conference halls, except for separate smoking areas;

Again, this was reinforced by the Land Transportation Frachising & Regulatory Board in Memorandum Circula 2009-036 calling for 100% Smoke Free Public Utility Vehicles and Public Land Transportation Terminals.

Unfortunately, drivers and commuters still blatantly ignore and violate these laws. Putting in harm’s way their non-smoking passengers who become exposed to second-hand smoke or passive smoking.

To those who sill don’t believe that second-hand smoke is harmful to one’s health, a recent study by the team of Dr Armando Peruga for the World Health Organization has came up with findings that confirms this fact:

Worldwide, 40% of children, 33% of male non-smokers, and 35% of female non-smokers were exposed to second-hand smoke in 2004. This exposure was estimated to have caused 379 000 deaths from ischaemic heart disease, 165 000 from lower respiratory infections, 36 900 from asthma, and 21 400 from lung cancer. 603 000 deaths were attributable to second-hand smoke in 2004, which was about 1·0% of worldwide mortality. 47% of deaths from second-hand smoke occurred in women, 28% in children, and 26% in men. DALYs lost because of exposure to second-hand smoke amounted to 10·9 million, which was about 0·7% of total worldwide burden of diseases in DALYs in 2004. 61% of DALYs were in children. The largest disease burdens were from lower respiratory infections in children younger than 5 years (5 939 000), ischaemic heart disease in adults (2 836 000), and asthma in adults (1 246 000) and children (651 000).

These findings were based in 2004, Republic Act 9211 was enacted in 2003, while the LTFRB Memorandum Circular came to effect just last January 7, 2010. Still, drivers and smokers still smoke cigarettes inside PUVs, as if they are blind to the “No Smoking” signs inside their vehicles.

So I wouldn’t be surprised if those figures have increased as I’ve not seen a decrease in drivers and commuters who smoke in public transportation. The fight against second-hand smoke remains tough but is not a losing one.

And since the law is on our side, we should not be afraid of reminding drivers to stop smoking while inside their jeepneys or for other passengers to put their cigarette before boarding, otherwise, we should report them so they’d end up with a fine or in jail.

Image by TheTruthAbout

How to Ride the Jeepney in the Philippines

For the education of every tourist coming into the Philippines, here’s a comprehensive guide on how to ride the number one means of public transport; the Public Utility Jeepney.

It’s in English for your convenience and guidance, starring Moymoy Palaboy for the needed comic relief.

Big props to the director and crew:

Director/writer: Arvin Mancilla
DOP/camera: Japz and Tengie
Editor/Gfx: Lloyd Orjalo
Sound Design: Lloyd Orjalo
Narrator: Andrew de Castro

Hopefully, they’d be back with more informative videos, most interesting would be how to ride the MRT or Public Utility Bus. 😀