Strike while the Iron is…
When was the last transport strike which had a significant local effect? I remember walking to work one day in 2011 or 2012. Many students were not able to go to school. There was no official suspension of classes. I have forgotten what the strike was for. It was probably against increasing oil price. (It usually is.) I’m too lazy to look up old news articles on the date. I’m pretty sure it was around that time. If so, it has been over 10 years. Maybe there had been strikes after that or before this recent one, but that is the last one that I could remember that had an empirical effect.
When I heard of the plan of a strike, it caught my attention because it raised the possibility of suspension of classes. (In case you notice, there’s this part of me that’s always on the lookout for a reason for suspension of work and for me to just bum around at home.) But when I further found out that the transport groups were planning a week-long strike, I was taken aback. Are they serious? That’s giving away a week’s wages to make a statement of protest. Even before the official announcement and without inside information from local transport groups, I knew already that the local sector would not join such a strike. (I think that has been the stand of the local groups. That’s why we haven’t been feeling any transport suspension in the past 10 years.) I do understand and respect citizens’ rights to protest, but a whole week is seriously suicidal. That has to hurt the drivers more than anyone else. Work could be done at home. Classes could be suspended. Eventually, people could adjust to the inconvenience. But while they’re at it, jeepney drivers won’t get paid. It’s not even a guarantee that their cause would be heard by the government. I understand the local consensus for them to go on with the transport routes and leave the strikers to themselves. In that way, they would keep earning some cash, despite the high price of oil. Who knows? It may increase again some time soon.
I know that this has been going on for some time now. But this got me thinking, why does the jeepney have to be modernized anyway? Reportedly, “The government transport modernization program, first launched in 2017, aims to replace dangerously dilapidated and old passenger jeepneys and vans with modern vehicles, which have safety features and conform with carbon emissions standards” (apnews.com). As my nephew (who was born and raised in the US and is practically and culturally, an American) would put it, “Why is it so dirty?”, when talking about a clean tricycle. I’m guessing he means it looks old and dilapidated. I guess that’s how Filipino culture goes, what was then referred to as segunda mano is no called as “ukay-ukay” and contracted to UK. How many Japan surplus product live sellers do you know? We’re going to have that old laptop fixed until it ultimately gives up beyond repair. The same goes with the old rusty buses that roam around the city streets. It was already 90’s and I still would see those old Love Buses around Manila. The colorful design and lettering was obviously psychedelic and hippie inspired, but there they were blending with modern culture. There’s also that mindset of “we can’t afford it” when some financial scheme could feasibly be worked out. Some Filipinos would simply resign themselves to their fate in the perspective that it could not be done.
Road and environmental safety are noble aspirations, but realistically, I don’t think the government would be able to chase the rusty rumblers off the road. I think, a more culturally sensitive direction would be to focus implementation initially on a specific part of NCR; then slowly, work on the adjacent regions from there. Maybe, they could work on Region IV-A and IV-B next, then Region III, and VII and so on. But I don’t think we could expect a 100% modern jeepney nation. There would always be some stubborn antique aficionado in some town who would insist on his right to drive his corroded Pinoy for sentimental reasons. If the authorities force a total jeepney modernization on the nation, they would be running after old jeeps like they have been chasing drug pushers, fraternity hazers, and illegal street vendors who would frantically run with their goods when PSO officers come along, and then come back to set up shop again when the cops are gone.
Psalm 57:1: “I will take refuge in the shadow of Your wings until the danger has passed.”