Why the Philippine transportation sector players are blackmailing each other

Jeepney drivers from the Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (Piston), members of the Alliance of Concerned Transport Organization (ACTO) and Stop and GO Coalition staged a nationwide transport strike on Monday, September 30, to protest government’s plan to totally phase out jeepneys by 2020. The strike, according to the jeepney drivers and operators, was considered a success while the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) described the effort as useless with the result as “an ordinary Monday morning rush hour”.

But while government agencies claim that the strike was not successful, they offered free rides to stranded passengers while the LTFRB threatened to cancel or suspend the franchises of participating jeepney drivers and operators. The public’s opinion was divided with some calling the threat as being insensitive to the plight of the operators and drivers.

But when one looks at the bigger picture, both the LTFRB and the jeepney drivers and operators are simply blackmailing each other. The former threatens to cancel franchises while the latter uses the plight of the commuters to intimidate. In the end, the commuters are the ones suffering. But why are they doing these?

First, some of the LTFRB personnel benefited largely from the issuance of colorum franchises so all the agency can do is threaten. While five LTFRB personnel have been sacked and 44 others have been transferred, this did not stop the issues hounding the agency that even prompted the senate last year to probe on new anomalies. In a sense, LTFRB seems to tell the drivers, particularly the colorum ones: Don’t join the strike or we’ll cancel the colorum franchises we gave you.

Otherwise, if the LTFRB is serious, it could have cancelled the franchises of those who joined the strikes since its officials are always bragging about the bases for cancellation. But how many franchises have been cancelled to date? Only 20 and that was for the strike done in 2017.No doubt LTFRB Chief Martin Delgra earned the monicker of “Boy Banta”. And, more so, it should have cleaned its database, posted the list of colorum vehicles, and let the traffic enforcers apprehend them.

LTFRB;s inefficiency and being prone to temptation now becomes the source of confidence of the drivers and operators. In fact, there are drivers who claim to have paid P288,000 to P300,000 to LTFRB personnel. Who will return the money, then? Even those sacked were not reported to have returned the money to their victims. So they seem to be saying: Cancel our franchise and we’ll open a can of worms.

The drivers and operators, too, find their confidence on the weakness of the Land Transportation Office (LTO). Annually, vehicles are being examined for their road worthiness. But, how come dilapidated jeepney units and those unfit for public transportation still pass the exams and continue to operate?

Lastly, while the commuters can just but complain, they find the situation hopeless. Whether they like it or not, the jeepneys still provide the cheapest and readily available source of transportation. The mass transit systems are always problematic and the buses, particularly those in Metro Manila, are not always available particularly in the arterial roads.

The problem in the public transportation industry are the bones in the closet of the stakeholders from the part of the government. If the government is really serious in preventing strikes and providing a convenient public transport system, the best way to start is to clean its closets. If it can really cancel the franchises of those erring jeepney operators and drivers, so be it. But at the same time, cancel or remove also from the government employee registry the erring personnel and not just transfer them. If the transportation franchise is just a privilege, so is serving the government.

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