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Modernization?

One big local issue these days is the Bacolod transport crisis where the city’s traditional jeepneys are up against national government agencies the Land Transportation Franchising Regulatory Board and the Land Transportation Office as they try to hold off the national mandate to “modernize.”

A couple of days of limited PUV availability on Bacolod streets demonstrated what would happen to the city’s commuters if a solution is not found, and the only compromise so far is a 2-week reprieve for the franchiseless jeepney operators that will allow them to temporarily ply their routes until the next crackdown. If I’m not mistaken, those 2 weeks should be up pretty soon.

This is going to be a tough cookie to crack because the LTO and LTFRB have the law behind them while the jeepney operators still have the public transport system by the balls. It shouldn’t have come to this if everyone had only been in coordination: national government, local government and the affected sector.

However, because we’d rather not take action until the last possible minute, the commuting public will have to wait, see and possibly suffer while the local public transport sector sorts itself out. We don’t know if the deadline will be extended yet again while the government support and assistance that should have been provided and availed for the modernization of the public transport sector is made available. Perhaps brand new modernized jeepneys will magically appear to fill the gap. Or, worst case, nobody will bend and an entire urban center will be thrown into crisis until a feasible solution is reached.

Proponents say it is the law. The affected oppositors say it is unfair. The LGU says it cannot do anything. Whatever the case, the jeepney modernization effort has so far failed and these three sectors now have their work cut out for them.

Let us hope and pray that they can work together and come up with a solution that in the end will give us a truly modernized jeepney system that is safe, reliable, efficient, convenient and comfortable.

I’m not holding my breath, but we need them to succeed because we have to admit it, our public transportation system that is backstopped by the iconic yet archaic jeepney is not something most modern societies would want to adapt or imitate.

While they sort that impending crisis out, where the current focus is only on the vehicle and franchise requirements, we also hope that this unwelcome situation has forced local governments to take a long hard look at their current public transport systems to see what else can be improved or truly modernized.

At this point, it is obvious that government and the private sector have only done the bare minimum as far as modernizing the public transport system is concerned. After all, there wouldn’t be a crisis if they did what should’ve been done from the start. Anyway, that is their problem now and we have no choice but to pray for their success.

While they do that, we also need to take this modernization goal a little more seriously because aside from the vehicle itself, there is so much more to be done.

On my end, I’ve been wishing for the local public transport system to come up with a proper system because I strongly feel it is the lack of one that keeps ours in the Flintstone age.

When we say system, it means our cities should’ve considered putting up jeepney/bus stops along the routes by now because if you come to think of it, it is not the jeepney that makes our public transportation system terrible, but it is the lack of a system that makes it among the most chaotic and inefficient in the world.

If our government can force jeepney operators to “modernize” their fleet, then it should’ve forced local governments to modernize their system as well. Big government just can’t pick on the little guy and force compliance come what may, it should also be able to kick towns and cities in the butt to make them work to truly modernize the public transport system as well.

If jeepney stops are implemented, the commuters would have to walk to one in order to get a ride. But if it results in a safer and more efficient system, then forcing Filipinos to deal with their laziness would be a small price to pay. It might even provide the push we need to improve our society as a whole.

But before government can do that, it has to fix the streets and sidewalks first in order to make our cities walkable. And that is a little bit more difficult than simply commanding jeepney operators to get new vehicles, or else. But that is why we have public servants around, isn’t it?*

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November 2022
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