Duterte clashes with Jeepney drivers, but “open for dialogue”

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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte at first reacted angrily to the two-day strike of public transport workers across the country on October 16 and 17, but later said he was ready to talk with organisers who oppose the phase-out programme of old Jeepneys, the Philippines’ iconic urban transport vehicles.

This strike, led by the Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (Piston), had the most effect on urban areas, namely Metro Manila and in central and southern provinces, where Piston claimed that around 90 per cent of Jeepney transportation in key urban centers was paralised. Work at all branches of government and on the Philippine Stock Exchange and classes in schools at all levels were suspended during the strike.

Citing pollution and health concerns, Duterte ordered that Jeepneys with engines older than 15 years have to be switched for modern and less-polluting versions by 2018 at the transport companies’ own expenses, although the government offers some support for the replacement programme in form of a seven-year six-per cent interest loan subsidised with 80,000 pesos.

Most Jeepneys in the Philippines are in fact between 20 and 25 years old, and Piston estimated that 180,000 out of a total of 240,000 vehicles would need to be replaced under the government programme, which they say would need much more time.

Piston representatives asked to meet Duterte to raise their concerns because of the adverse effects the programme may cause to many Jeepney drivers and operators. The group also claimed that it would result in fare hikes and thus bring an additional burden to the public, and that the government had failed to “really involve” transport groups in the creation of the Jeepney modernization programme.

However, it is not clear whether Duterte will change his mind on the issue. He always emphasised that public interest dictated that the government implements the modernisation program despite the opposition of Piston. He accused Jeepney drivers of polluting the air with their old vehicles, citing a United Nation’s prediction that cases of lung cancer in the country would triple by 2025 if no action is being taken.

He promised to have officials towing away old Jeepneys “in front of the driver” and dumping them on junkyards starting from next year if operators do not comply. He also claimed that left-wing political groups and human right organisations would exploit the Jeepney strike for political reasons as part of “one big conspiracy.”

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Reading Time: 2 minutes

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte at first reacted angrily to the two-day strike of public transport workers across the country on October 16 and 17, but later said he was ready to talk with organisers who oppose the phase-out programme of old Jeepneys, the Philippines’ iconic urban transport vehicles.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte at first reacted angrily to the two-day strike of public transport workers across the country on October 16 and 17, but later said he was ready to talk with organisers who oppose the phase-out programme of old Jeepneys, the Philippines’ iconic urban transport vehicles.

This strike, led by the Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (Piston), had the most effect on urban areas, namely Metro Manila and in central and southern provinces, where Piston claimed that around 90 per cent of Jeepney transportation in key urban centers was paralised. Work at all branches of government and on the Philippine Stock Exchange and classes in schools at all levels were suspended during the strike.

Citing pollution and health concerns, Duterte ordered that Jeepneys with engines older than 15 years have to be switched for modern and less-polluting versions by 2018 at the transport companies’ own expenses, although the government offers some support for the replacement programme in form of a seven-year six-per cent interest loan subsidised with 80,000 pesos.

Most Jeepneys in the Philippines are in fact between 20 and 25 years old, and Piston estimated that 180,000 out of a total of 240,000 vehicles would need to be replaced under the government programme, which they say would need much more time.

Piston representatives asked to meet Duterte to raise their concerns because of the adverse effects the programme may cause to many Jeepney drivers and operators. The group also claimed that it would result in fare hikes and thus bring an additional burden to the public, and that the government had failed to “really involve” transport groups in the creation of the Jeepney modernization programme.

However, it is not clear whether Duterte will change his mind on the issue. He always emphasised that public interest dictated that the government implements the modernisation program despite the opposition of Piston. He accused Jeepney drivers of polluting the air with their old vehicles, citing a United Nation’s prediction that cases of lung cancer in the country would triple by 2025 if no action is being taken.

He promised to have officials towing away old Jeepneys “in front of the driver” and dumping them on junkyards starting from next year if operators do not comply. He also claimed that left-wing political groups and human right organisations would exploit the Jeepney strike for political reasons as part of “one big conspiracy.”

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