MANILA, Philippines – With some key cities nationwide paralyzed by a jeepney strike on Monday, October 16, Secretary of Transportation Arthur Tugade could not hold back his dismay with protesting drivers, whom he called "selfish and small-minded."
He was replying to a text message by Vivian Locsin of the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE), where he said Piston, the jeepney drivers' organization that led the strike, should be charged with economic sabotage, and that all drivers should modernize their "old jeeps."
Tugade replied: "Yes.... They are selfish and small-minded.... We want the Filipino public to be safe and have better transport system.... Change is hard but must be done." (READ: DOTr hits Piston 'propaganda' on modernization program)
The exchange was shared to reporters by DOTr Undersecretary Cesar Chavez.
The transport strike, announced days before, prompted the cancellation of work and classes nationwide, including the suspension bank clearing services and trading at the PSE.
Locsin and Tugade were talking about the object of protest by the drivers: jeepney modernization. (EXPLAINER: What's the reason for the 2-day transport strike?)
Under the program, jeepneys nationwide aged 15 or older are expected to be renewed by 2020. According to transportation officials, there are about 180,000 units affected.
The DOTr is eyeing the universalization of modern jeepneys with a Euro-4 engine, GPS system, dashboard cameras, automated fare collection system, Wi-Fi, and CCTV cameras.
The government vowed to help the drivers by lending them money and helping them budget their commute-earned cash.
But drivers and critics still slammed the program as "anti-poor," suspecting it government's way of phasing out their means of livelihood. (READ: Is the PUV modernization program 'anti-poor?')
To ease the effects of the strike, the government has deployed 54 trucks and busses in Metro Manila to carry commuters to their destinations for free. – Rappler.com