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Ang kinang ng isang maikling tula ng pagmamahal sa litanya ng pang-aapi’t pagsasamantala

Ni Nuel M. Bacarra

How Do I Love Thee? (Sonnet 43)

By Elizabeth Barrett Browning

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

I love thee to the depth and breadth and height

My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight

For the ends of being and ideal grace.

I love thee to the level of every day’s

Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.

I love thee freely, as men strive for right.

I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.

I love thee with the passion put to use

In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.

I love thee with a love I seemed to lose

With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,

Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,

I shall but love thee better after death.

Ang unang linya ng sonetong How Do I Love Thee? (Sonnet 43) ni Elizabeth Barrett Browning ay ganito: “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” Ang sumunod na isang-dosenang linya ay pawang litanya ng pagmamahal sa kanyang irog. Hindi nakapag-tatakang popular pa rin ang tulang ito sa lahat ng mangingibig mahigit isa’t kalahating siglo na ang nakakaraan.

Mapalad ang mga iniibig. Sila ang taga-tanggap ng mabubuti’t magaganda sa mundo. Kabaligtaran naman kapag ang isang tao ang kinasusuklaman. Sambot niya ang lahat ng ngitngit, uyam, poot, at suklam, ito man ay karapat-dapat o hindi.

Ang kaso ng isang politiko at isang botante ay isang halimbawa. Sa panahon ng eleksiyon, tila isang pursigidong mangingibig ang isang kandidato sa panliligaw ng ating mga boto. Subalit ang pag-ibig ng isang nahalal ay nasusukat lamang kapag naluklok na siya sa pwesto.

Kung kaya, ihambing natin ngayon ang noong manliligaw na si Bongbong Marcos ngayong nabigyan siya ng pagkakataon kung paano niya patunayan ang kanyang mga pangako dalawang taon na ang nakakaraan.

1. Presyo ng bilihin

Bukod  sa ipinangakong gagawin kung manalo sa eleksyon, ang presyo ng bigas ay napako rin sa antas na pang-dalawang kainan na lamang tayo sa isang araw sa halip na tatlo. O baka nga may katulad ko rin noon na ang almusal ay mumog, kanin at itlog, minsan talong ang ulam sa tanghalian at tulog ang hapunan. At hindi na kailangang amyendahan pa ang Rice Liberalization Law. Ibasura na dapat ito antimano. Hubarin na ang maskara na hindi ito para sa mamamayan kundi pagpasok sa buslo ng neoliberal na patakaran ng pag-asa sa importasyon. Tiba-tiba rito ang mga kasabwat na importer at treyder ng gubyerno. Pero madali pa ring lusutan ito dahil halos tuwing Martes kada linggo ay may pataw na dagdag-presyo sa mga produktong petrolyo. Ito ang produktong kapag tumaas, bitbit din ang presyo halos ng pangunahing produkto. Magtatambol naman ang gubyerno ng pagbaba na ₱0.50 kada litro, Pero sa sunod na linggo, ₱1.25 naman ang itaas. At muling ipaghihiyawan na “regulated” na yan dahil may gera sa Ukraine at ngayon sa Israel kaya apektado ang suplay ng produktong petrolyo. May kasunod itong panghimagas na pagtaas ng singil ng Meralco.

2. Produkto ng magsasaka

Ramdam ng mamamayan ang pangunguna ng Pilipinas bilang pinakamalaking taga-angkat ng bigas sa buong mundo. Ito na ang patakaran kapalit ng dapat ay pagpapaunlad ng lokal na produksyon. May budget para sa irigasyon, pero walang tubig na dumadaloy sa mga palayan. Atrasado ng apat na taon ang ayuda mula sa Rice Farmers Financial Assistance o walang kundisyong tulong sa mga magsasaka mula sa execss tariff collection ng gubyerno. Ayon sa Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, ang ₱12.79 bilyon noong 2022 at ang para sa 2023 na halos ₱20 bilyon mula sa excess tariff revenue collection ay di pa naipamamahagi. Nauna pa rito ang pinagsamang halaga na halos ₱7.60 bilyon para sa 2020-21 na ‘di pa rin naibibigay. Ang sibuyas ay ₱15/kg sa bukid pero nasa merkado na halos ₱60 – ₱80 na. At ito ang modelo ng iba pang produkto ng mga magsasaka.

3. Sahod ng manggagawa’t kawani

Sa kabila ng pag-igting ng paggigiit ng manggagawa para sa taas-sahod o legislated wage increase, nakapakong maigi sa starvation level ito. Ang kailangang sahod ng isang manggagawa para mabuhay ay dapat nasa ₱1,208 para sa isang 5-kataong pamilya na malayo sa kasalukuyang pambansang abereyds na ₱441 kada araw, ayon sa Ibon Foundation. Sa National Capital Region (NCR), ang minimum na sahod ay ₱610. Kaya ang mga manggagawa ay nagiging kakumpetensya pa ng mga walang trabaho na dumidiskarte na rin para may dagdag kita. Ang huling pagtaas ng sahod sa NCR ay noong Hulyo 2023. Mayroong hinihilot sa Senado na ₱100 taas-sahod na nasa ikatlong pagbasa na pero may pasiklab ang mababang kapulungan na dalawang panukala para sa isang ₱150 at isa pang ₱350 para raw sa umento sa sahod. Tandaan, eleksyon na uli sa isang taon. Iginigiit naman ng mga organisadong karaniwang kawani ng gubyerno ang ₱33,000 na entry-level salary.

4. Charter Change

Bagamat may paghupa sa dalawang kapulungan ng Kongreso ang usapin ng ChaCha, hindi kailangang mabulaga ang taumbayan na maaaring ibuwelo muli ang pagratsada nito. (Lalo pa’t may bagong liderado sa Senado na pumalit sa dati na ibinunyag ang presyur mula sa mga kampon ni Marcos para palusutin sa mataas na kapulungan ang kasuklam-suklam na sayaw na ito.) Salik sa paghupang ito ang pagtutok ng mga pulitiko sa darating na eleksyon. Ang pagbago sa Konstitusyon kapag di nilabanan ng mamamayan ay magbubunsod sa bansa sa ibayong kontrol ng dayuhan sa mga aspetong panlipunan at iba pang probisyon na pawang pabor sa mga malaking burgesya komprador at panginoong maylupa. Ang nais isingit sa Konstitusyon ay ang linyang “Unless otherwise provided by law” na pagkapon sa konstitusyon. Iniinda, partikular ng konggreso, ang papalaking bilang ng mga protesta ng mga progresibong pwersa laban sa ChaCha dahil naisisiwalat nito ang kiling sa mga dayuhan sa pamamagitan ng mga panukala ng pagbibigay 100% pag-aari ng lupa at negosyo sa larangan ng edukasyon, masmidya, yutilidad at iba pa.

5. Pambobomba sa komunidad

Noong 2018 sa panahon ni Duterte, sa bisa ng Memorandum Order 32 at E.O. 70, integrado na sa “kontra-insurhensyang” programa ng gubyerno ang pambobomba na ipinagpatuloy naman nang maupo si F. R. Marcos Jr. sa poder. Inutil ito sa layong pagparalisa sa operasyon ng New People’s Army o paggapi mismo dito dahil mas ang mga sibilyang komunidad ng mga magsasaka at pambansang minorya ang nabubulabog at biktima nito. Sa ulat ng Karapatan, sa unang taon ng rehimeng Marcos Jr., 23,391 indibidwal ang apektado ng pambobomba. Ginawa ito para diumano sa “kapayapaan at seguridad” at sa pambansang saklaw. Bawat pagbomba, tuliro ang mga komunidad at lalong nasasapanagnib ang kanilang buhay maging ang kabuhayan nila. Kontra ito sa internasyunal na makataong batas at sa Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law. Malaking badyet rin ang winawaldas ng gubyerno para rito.

6. Pagpapanatili ng NTF-ELCAC

Kibit-balikat lang ang tugon ng rehimeng Marcos sa desisyon ng Korte Suprema na ang red-tagging ay banta sa buhay, kalayaan at seguridad. Patay-malisya ito sa mga kilos protesta na nananawagan na buwagin na ang NTF-ELCAC, ang ahensyang lugod na lugod sa panre-red tag na bumiktima na ng libu-libong buhay na pangunahin ay mga kritiko at aktibistang kritikal sa gubyerno. Malaki diumano ang papel ng ahensya sa pagpapalaya sa mga komunidad sa pamamagitan ng pagpapasuko sa masang tagasuporta ng rebolusyonaryong kilusan sa kanayunan, na ayon sa tagapagsalita ng Philiippine Army, ay nasa “survival mode” na. Mula nang itayo ito, naging karaniwang tunguhin ang mga ekstrahudisyal na pamamaslang sa mga konsultant sa usapang pangkapayapaan ng National Democratic Front of the Philippines at sa iba pa, pagdukot sa mga aktibista, huwad na pagpapasuko, at iba pa.  Ang testimonya ni Jonila Castro, isang tagapagtanggol ng kapaligiran na biktima ng pagdukot kasama ni Jhed Tamano, ay mga buhay na halimbawa ng kabulukan ng NTF-ELCAC na biktima. Si Castro ay isa sa mga delegado ng Pilipinas bilang saksi at para sa isiwalat ang kabuktutan ng ahensyang ito sa katatapos na International People’s Tribunal sa Belgium. Hinaharap ni Castro ngayon ang gawa-gawang kaso na ginagawa rin sa iba pang mga aktibistang target ng NTF-ELCAC.

7. Kabuhayan ng mga tsuper at opereytor

Masaker sa kabuhayan ang taguri ng mga drayber at opereytor sa Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP). Naobligang palawigin ang itinakdang palugit nito ng presidente mismo nang ilang ulit dahil na rin sa paglaban ng sektor at sa kawalang-kahandaan ng gubyerno matapos ang pitong taong implementasyon ng programa. Walang mahusay na koordinasyon ang mga ahensyang imbwelto dito kaya walang maiharap na matinong plano kaugnay ng rasyunalisasyon ng mga ruta at paano haharapin ang malawakang dislokasyon ng malaking bilang na mawawalan ng trabaho. Ibubulid sila ng gubyerno sa kawalang-trabaho at sa ibayong pagpapatibay ng kontrol ng dayuhan at malalaking burgesya kumprador na ang tunguhin ay pribatisasyon at korporatisasyon.

8. Demolisyon at kawalan ng social housing

Tuluy-tuloy ang demolisyon. Kapag may malaking negosyong itatayo sa isang lugar, asahan na ang mga demolisyon. Paboritong lugar ang Sityo San Roque sa Quezon City na aabot ng 20,000 pamilya, maging sa Beinte Reales sa Valenzuela,  sa Sugbo at sa Dabaw. Kaya sa mga ganito, bagay na bagay ang kasabihan na “huwag tutulug-tulog at baka magkasunog.” Aasa pa ba ang maralitang tagalunsod sa programang pabahay sa ilalim ng programang 4PH (Pambansang Pabahay Para sa Pilipino Housing Program)? Pangako man o pangarap ang isang milyong pabahay sa mga maralita kada taon ng panunungkulan niya, na katulad rin lamang ito ng pangako na ₱20 kada kilo ng bigas. Nais niyang buhayin ang dating programa ng magulang niya na Bagong Lipunan Improvement of Sites and Services o BLISS. Iwinagayway ni BBM ang proyekto sa Naic, Cavite at sa San Fernando, Pampanga. At malamang sa hindi, hanggang dito na lang ito uli. Tulad ng maralita sa lunsod na nangangarap ng kahit paano ay may masisilungang bahay, subalit mangangailangan ang gubyerno ng libu-libong ektarya ng lupaing publiko para rito. Ito ang panganib na idudulot din ng ChaCha ni Marcos. Kapag niratsada ito, goodbye pabahay dahil ang lupa ay aariin kundi man ng dayuhan, o ng tulad ng mga Villar. Hangga’t umiiral ang buktot na pamamahala sa gubyerno, korupsyon at ang dinastiya sa pulitika, suntok sa buwan ang proyektong pabahay.

9. Korupsyon at agawan ng pwesto sa gubyerno

Ito ay eksaktong kumbinasyon ng ekonomya at pulitika ng nasa poder. Negosyo ang pamamalakad sa gubyerno. Matapos mamuhunan para sa halalan, kukubra na ng tubo. Bida lagi ang korupsyon taun-taon at kibit-balikat lamang ang tugon sa trilyong pisong napupunta lamang sa korupsyon. Tama! Nakalista lamang sa ilalim ng korupsyon. Walang napapanagot. Dito rin maiuugnay ang bangayan sa pulitika ng “team unity” na halos isang taon pa lang ay “team hiwalayan” na at maging ang pagiging maka-China at maka-US ng mga Marcos. Isang taon pa lang, tila ramdam na kaagad ang paghahanda sa para sa eleksyon sa 2028. Ang agawan sa kapangyarihan ay laro ng agawan sa kaban ng bayan. Tama, maging ang nangyaring rigodon sa Senado kahapon lamang.

10. Pagka-tuta sa US

Ang ngalan ng ama at ng anak ay kapwa tuta ng US. Kailangan ng dagdag na base militar ng US, ensigida, dinagdagan ng apat pa. Ganito ang kongretong larawan ng isang relasyong tagibang na puro tango sa among imperyalista. Kapag sa kapritso ng US, etsa-pwera ang kapakanan ng mamamayan. Gera ang tunguhin ng galaw ng US kontra sa Tsina na ibinubugaw dahil pain ang Pilipinas bilang sabik na biktima. Tuloy ang paghahamon ng gera ng US sa Tsina sa pamamagitan ng serye ng mga Balikatan. Tuloy ang daloy ng mga angkat na produkto dahil ito ang nais ng amo. Palawakin at paigtingin pa ang ang mga malakihang kontra-mamamayang opensiba laban sa NPA dahil banta ito sa istabilidad ng imperyalistang pangingibabaw sa bansa. Baguhin ang Konstitusyon ng Pilipinas para maluwag na makapagpapasok ang US ng mga armas nukleyar saan man naisin nito sa bansa.

11. Palpak na tugon sa El Niño

Simula’t sapul, ang El Niño ay sinasalubong ng kainutilan ng gobyerno. Ang pinakasimpleng paraan na ginagawa ay ang pamumudmod ng ayuda na bagamat nakatutulong kahit paano, ginagawa ito ng mga pulitiko bilang puhunan sa pulitika. Hindi ito inihaharap bilang suliraning pangkapaligiran, walang alternatibo para harapin ang kakapusan ng pagkain at pagkalugi ng mga magsasaka. Todo-larga ang operasyon ng mga minahan, ng mga proyekto sa reklamasyon, habang walang mekanisasyon sa agrikultura o pagpapaunlad ng teknolohiya. Ang sistema ng pagmomonitor sa pinsala nito ang siya nang pinakamataas na antas ng pagharap sa problema.

Larawan ang makatang si Browning at ang politikong si Marcos Jr. ng dalawang mukha ng bagol—isang nagmamahal at isa namang walang malasakit sa nasasakupan. Kung anong kislap ng isa ay siya namang kalawang ng kabila. Ang pagmamahal ay may kaakibat na sakripisyo, kabutihang-loob at malasakit samantalang ang nangingibaw sa galit at pagkamuhi ay ibayong pagpapahirap, kapabayaan at pagiging makasarili. Ang una ay may kaakibat na suporta ng masa habang ang huli ay aani ng paglaban ng taumbayan dahil sa pang-aapi’t pagsasamantala. #

Ang mga nagmamadaling patayin ang dyip

“Ang nagmamadaling patayin ang jeepney ay ‘di kahit kailan nakasakay ng jeep. Keber niya sa mga taong ito ang kabuhayan?”— Bibeth Orteza (actor, writer, artist)

Image by Jo Maois Mamangun

Akala mo’y libre…

Ni George Tumaob Calaor

walang libreng sakay…

sa piniga nilang sobra-sobrang buwis

matagal mo na yang binayaran

mula sa iyong pinagpawisa’t kinayod ng paguran

sobrang bayad na ang mga iyan.

Teka nga…

Sinong ayaw sa modernong sasakyan

kung ito ay hindi nakasasagasa

sa hanapbuhay at kabuhayan…

sino ang mag-aayaw sa kumbinyente’t

magarang unit para sa kapakanan

ng mga komyuter na pinagsiserbisyuhan…

kung ito ay biyaheng hatid ay patas na sagana

at ang ruta ay pangkaunlaran—makabayan.

Ngunit sa itong iskemang mapanggantso’t

Martial Law na isinusubo—prangkesa’y ipinasusuko

sa hatol ng mga malalaking lokal

at kakutsabang dayong paluhod na kinakatigan…

modernisasyong halaga’y milyon milyong

lagpas sa kakayahan ng mga ordinaryong tsuper

at maliliit na operator na kukurampot ang kinikita

karamihan ay humahabol sa mga bayarin

at utang na sakay sa tubuan…

ito ay isang busina ng permanente pagpaparada

sa garahe ng kabangkaroteha’t kawalan…

biktimang paharurot na sinunggaban

sa monopolistang pakanang

mas malupit pa sa hit and run.

PISTON announces support of transport strike next week

A major national federation expressed support for the week-long transport strike next week announced by drivers’ group Manibela starting Monday, March 6.

The Pagkakaisa ng Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide (PISTON) said it is ready to back the strike against the phase out of public utility vehicles (PUV) like jeepneys and the compulsory transport franchise consolidation by the government.

“Pinakikita lamang nito na handang makipaglaban ang iba’t ibang samahan para pigilan ang sapilitang franchise consolidation at PUV phaseout na patuloy na itinutulak ng gobyerno. Handang protektahan ng mga tsuper at maliliit na operator ang kanilang kabuhayan dahil buhay ng pamilya nila ang nakasalalay rito lalo sa panahon ngayon ng matinding krisis sa ekonomiya,” PISTON national president Mody Floranda said.

(This shows that several organizations are willing to fight to stop the forced consolidation and PUV phaseout being pushed by the government. Drivers and small operators are ready to defend their livelihood especially in this very hard up times.)

PISTON ready to back planned transport strike against PUV phaseout, compulsory franchise consolidation

PISTON explained that mandating operators to consolidate their individual franchises under a cooperative or corporation is “wrong, deceitful, and coercive” as it deprives operators of their rights and privileges as individual franchise holders.

It added that only big corporations with single consolidated franchises have the financial capacity to purchase and fully comply with the current PUV Modernization Program (PUVMP) schemes.

“Kapag nag-consolidate ka ng prangkisa sa ilalim ng isang kooperatiba o korporasyon, sinusurender mo yung karapatan mo sa indibidwal mong prangkisa. Sa oras na di ka makabayad sa napakamahal na halaga ng modernization, wala ka nang babalikan dahil pinilit kang isuko ang prangkisa mo,” explained Floranda.

(If a small operator agrees to a consolidation under a cooperative or corporation, he gives up his single-ownership franchise. If it turns out that he could not afford to pay the very expsensive modernization schemes, he could no longer go back to his livelihood.)

The transport leader added that the lost franchises shall then be sold by the Land Transportation and Regulatory Board to large corporations who can afford the imported mini-buses the government wants to ply the roads.

In response to the transport strike announced on Monday, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) said that the department is “giving enough ample time to transport groups to muster enough funds to buy new units” in order to comply with the government’s PUV modernization program.

PISTON said DOTr’s statement is a clear admission that their imported “modern” mini-busses are indeed unaffordable to small operators and drivers.

PISTON said the government must first implement a just transition program by supporting local manufacturers and allowing the rehabilitation and overhauling of traditional jeepneys to carry cleaner and environmentally sound engines.

It added that this will not only save small-time operators money, it can also further develop our local industries and create more domestic jobs.

“Bakit ba kating-kati ang gobyerno ni Marcos Jr na mag-import nang mag-import para palitan ang mga lokal nating jeepney at paglaruan ang buhay ng maralitang Pilipino? Sino ba talaga ang gusto nilang paunlarin? Malinaw na hindi ang mga Pilipino,” Floranda said.

(Why is the government so adamant about the importation of new vehicles to replace our local jeepneys? They are playing with the lives of poor Filipinos. Who are they trying to enrich? It is clearly not the Filipinos.)

Meanwhile, Manibela president Mar Valbuena shot down suggestions of a dialogue between his group, the DOTR and other transport groups opposed to the transport strike.

In a radio interview, Valbuena said the DOTr must first shut up its “dogs” in the transport industry who first benefitted in the modernization scheme by cornering new transport routes and benefitting from government loan programs to buy new vehicles.

In supporting transport strike, Floranda told Kodao that PISTON will join Manibela rallies wherever they will be held.

He added that PISTON is still in the process of determining which of its chapters nationwide would be able to hold transport strikes in support of Manibela. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Transport budget for infra but none for affected jeepney drivers

by Jose Lorenzo Lim

The COVID pandemic has led to massive income losses for Filipinos. The Duterte administration suspended mass transport, including jeepneys, when the enhanced community quarantines (ECQ) in Luzon and other parts of the country were declared in March. Quarantine measures have eased in general community quarantine (GCQ) areas and public transport has resumed in phases. 

The government is attempting to usher economic activity back but public utility jeepney (PUJ) drivers keep getting left behind.

Lost income and jeepney modernization program

Three months into the pandemic, the social welfare department reported some 36,200 jeepney drivers of over 200,000 nationwide getting cash aid under Bayanihan 1. Even so, many jeepney drivers only received one tranche of the Php5,000-8,000 of social amelioration. IBON estimated that around 55,000-70,000 jeepney drivers in Metro Manila each lost an average of Php26,000 per month of lockdown over the first three months of suspended mass transport for a total of Php78,000 each.

When quarantine measures eased, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) prioritized modernized jeepneys in resuming operations in Metro Manila which left most PUJ drivers still unable to operate. More traditional jeepneys have recently been allowed back on their routes but physical distancing protocols make them operate on just half-capacity and, thus, their earnings are also halved accordingly.

The PUJ sector along with other vulnerable sectors have been calling for additional aid as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage. However, although the government is moving to gradually resume economic activity, it is allocating less and less for emergency subsidies.

The Php5.58 billion in aid promised PUJ and transport network vehicle (TNV) drivers under Bayanihan 2, for instance, only means an average of Php116-225 per driver per day* spread across four subsequent months of lockdown since the expiration of Bayanihan 1 in June 30. The 2021 proposed national budget allocation for overall emergency aid is even smaller at just Php9.9 billion.

The DOTr announced that it was doubling the subsidy for jeepney operators switching to modernized jeepneys from Php80,000 to Php160,000. However, this is still not enough as modernized jeepneys cost around Php1.6-2.2 million each.

The slow modernization of jeepneys is also a sign that the program is failing. During the 2019 budget hearing of the DOTr, it was reported that the jeepney modernization program was only able to modernize 1.5% of its initial target more than two years after it started. Thus, the DOTr took a step back on the jeepney modernization program and said that it will allow old jeepneys on the roads provided they pass “roadworthiness” standards.

Transport budget for infrastructure

The DOTr is proposing a Php143.1 billion budget for 2021. Of this, Php112.8 billion are capital outlays for railways, seaports and airports.

Of this, Php96.2 billion will be funded by ODA. Specifically, this ODA funding will cover the rail transport program or the construction of the Metro Manila Subway Project Phase 1, North-South Commuter Railway System, and Philippine National Railway (PNR) South Long-Haul Project.

If the government was sincere about its jeepney modernization program not displacing so many drivers and small operators, it could have increased the subsidy for this program. The government counterpart funding for these 3 railway infrastructure projects is worth Php12.6 billion. This could have been an additional Php181,000 jeepney modernization subsidy if shared among 70,000 jeepney drivers in Metro Manila. 

While these expansive mass transport projects will provide faster trips across longer distances, Filipinos still rely on jeepneys as a mode of transportation for short distances or the first or last miles. Increasing subsidies for jeepney modernization is actually a win for both the government and jeepney drivers with the government taking strides towards its goal and jeepney drivers keeping their livelihood.

Keyword: Pandemic

Because of the coronavirus crisis, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) issued Memo Circular 2020-017 which only allows modernized jeepneys and traditional jeepneys under a corporation or cooperative to operate. This leaves out small jeepney operators and drivers. Unlike big corporate fleet operators, they can ill-afford the costly modernized jeepneys, or even the fees and requirements to form a cooperative. They are even less able today after months of lost incomes and depleted savings.

The government should prioritize subsidizing small jeepney drivers and operators and at least postpone costly infrastructure projects that are less urgent because of the pandemic. More railways, seaports, and airports might always seem like a good thing. However, it has always been questionable if these deliver the best economic and development returns for the huge spending on them and the increased debt taken out. Certainly, the emerging needs of vulnerable sectors because of the pandemic should be a more pressing use for scarce funds.

The Duterte administration should support drivers and operators with emergency subsidies for upgrading or replacing their units to meet safety, health and environmental standards. Getting them back on the road will contribute to spurring economic activity. It will also increase the mobility of the working people who are the most crucial elements in economic recovery. #

Transport leader beaten up inside police station

A transport group said its leader arrested Sunday was beaten up inside the Daraga, Albay police station by suspected military intelligence agents.

The Pinagkaisang Samahan ng Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide (PISTON) said its vice president and its Bicol chapter CONDOR-PISTON spokesperson Ramon Rescovilla was beaten up by three burly men inside the Daraga police station.

While undergoing tactical interrogation, Rescovilla was punched five times on his body and head. He was also kicked on his right foot, the group reported.

Rescovilla was arrested at a bridge near his home between Barangays Bintayan and Kilicao in Daraga, Albay Province at 4 pm by about 20 civilian-clad and uniformed police and military personnel.

The transport group leader told his colleagues he was ordered to lie face down on the pavement and handcuffed while an orange body bag was forcibly slung across his body when arrested.

When the bag was later opened by the police, a gun and a grenade was seen inside, a criminal charge the Philippine National Police has filed against many activists.

The police also refused Rescovilla’s requests for a medical check up after the beating as no doctor was available at the time.

Rescovilla’s son Bryan was told by a brother said the victim was crying in pain when found by family members at the police station.

Ayon, umiiyak, hinahawakan iyong tiyan. Binugbog yata sa loob,” regional alternative news group Baretang Bikolnon reported. (He was crying, holding his stomach. He may have been beaten while under police custody.)

Rescovilla had been continuously red-tagged and harassed by state forces prior to the arrest, PISTON said in a statement.

Rescovilla is the fourth activist arrested in the Bicol region since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

The anomaly of transport modernization (Part II)

by Rosario Guzman

Read the first part here:

Government’s misplaced scheme

In many instances, the solution to the complex transport problems of Metro Manila lies in the physics of the problem, in the same way that dealing with COVID-19 requires medical science. But the Duterte administration has simply picked up its pre-COVID proposal of “jeepney modernization” and used the pandemic to justify finally pushing for it, amid protestations by jeepney drivers and the adverse impact on millions of commuters.

The government is a signatory to the Bangkok Declaration on Sustainable Transport Goals (Bangkok 2020) on “environmentally-sustainable” transport policy. This is also in relation to the ADB’s Sustainable Transport Initiative that is ultimately premised on the continuation of “free market” and “inclusive” economic growth. The Duterte government’s accomplishment in fulfilling Bangkok 2020 rests on the jeepney modernization program. Ultimately, this is important for the Duterte administration to attract transport infrastructure investments as well as to push for the sale of brand new, imported, so-called environment-friendly, and modern jeepneys.

Through the Omnibus Franchising Guidelines (OFG) that the DOTr issued on 19 June 2017, the government is requiring the make of the body and engine of the traditional jeepney to be compliant with the requirements set by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB). These requirements definitely prioritize electric jeepneys (e-jeep), while pushing away the traditional jeepneys which need to go through numerous hurdles to get licensed to operate. These hurdles include: upgrading combustion engines to comply with Euro IV and similar emissions standards; complying with the LTFRB-set age-limit of oldest vehicle part; refurbishing and rebuilding that should pass the type approval system test; and still finally going through the Land Transportation Office (LTO) for a roadworthiness test to get registration renewal.

Concerned automotive engineers, scientists and mechanics contest the need to phase out traditional jeepneys and argue that the government should support locally manufactured environmental solutions. They also question the availability of the parts of the imported modern jeepneys in case of repairs, unlike with the traditional jeepneys that can be replaced easily. They also claim that the body engineering of the modern jeepneys is not suited to Metro Manila’s narrow roads and more prone to accidents. Environmentalists have also criticized the government’s going electric or Euro IV as hypocritical when its own energy program is reliant on coal and other fossil fuels.

But the OFG just keeps on narrowing the chances for traditional jeepneys to survive. The OFG also requires a fleet size of 15 units for any type of PUV for six months for new routes, which prevents small operators from applying for new franchises. Actually, even medium-scale operators – if they exist – are constrained and marginalized under the modernization program. The modern jeepney costs about Php1.6 million to as high as Php2.5 million, which means that an operator needs at least Php24 million to get a franchise.

The DOTr has stated that the government is not phasing out jeepneys but simply modernizing. However, the government plays with words. The jeepney modernization program will ultimately kill the livelihoods of thousands of jeepney drivers and complete the corporate capture of the ‘last-mile’ resort of millions of Filipino commuters.

Still pushing for Build, Build, Build and foreign ownership

The Duterte administration is also not compromising its Build, Build, Build (BBB) infrastructure projects, despite their questionable viability even before COVID-19 struck and their diminishing relevance now. Of the 100 infrastructure flagship projects (IFPs) worth Php4.3 trillion, 73 are for transport and mobility. The government does not have plans to strengthen economic production so the projects will just end up reinforcing a service economy dependent on import-export trade, foreign investments and tourism. Much of the construction materials used are even imported rather than produced locally.

The transport sector is reflective of how the government has lost its capacity to govern and manage public services because of privatization. This raises questions therefore on government’s absorptive capacity for such a grand infrastructure program. Four years into the ambitious BBB, there are only two (2) completed and nine (9) ongoing projects to date. The Duterte administration has even increased the IFPs from 75 to 100 to make BBB “more feasible”. But it appears that only 38 projects will be finished by the end of its term.

The future of BBB in the time of COVID-19 is precarious. But like a beaten beast, the Duterte administration refuses to yield. The pandemic is posing serious challenges to the continuation of BBB, apart from the program’s innate weakness of simply being aimed at attracting foreign investments and momentarily stimulating a slowing economy.

The most obvious challenge for the construction industry is physical distancing because  masses of workers need to gather to finish a project. The IATF suspended construction at the start of the lockdown but later allowed it, while passing on to the construction companies the responsibility of ensuring that workers comply with health protocols.

The next challenge is how travel restrictions and physical distancing will certainly dampen transport, travel and tourism businesses, and foreign trade and investment for a long time. These are the sectors that BBB wishes to be relevant for – but they are less and less important for the economy’s survival in the time of COVID-19.

Another challenge is the commercial viability of the projects on which they are all premised. Instead of catering to genuine public service, the completed projects are designed to be run by private transport corporations who will collect user-fees for their profitability and sustainability. The most expensive BBB projects are mass commuter railways whose viability depends on expensive fares that will be beyond the reach of the majority of the poor and working people.

But the greatest challenge is how BBB’s socially inappropriate orientation can be shifted to support the proper health response to COVID-19. The pandemic has revealed how weak our health system is – lacking facilities and equipment, lacking health personnel, and even lacking the means to transport health personnel. Not a few health frontliners have had fatal road accidents biking to work due to lack of transport support from the government. There is not even a single health infrastructure facility in the IFP lineup. The administration has made pronouncements that it would reorient BBB to respond to the health crisis but has yet to release a new IFP list.

Meanwhile, one priority legislation of the administration is the amendment of the Public Services Act (PSA). On March 10, just before the lockdown, the House of Representatives passed on final reading House Bill (HB) 78 to amend the PSA. It is now at the Senate for deliberation and approval. These amendments include narrowly defining public utilities to bypass Constitutional restrictions on foreign ownership. Sectors considered public services, transportation included, can be opened up to complete foreign ownership. This further undermines public interest and national development. The PSA amendments will pave the way for the full foreign ownership of the mass transport system and government’s eventual surrender to private transport and transport infrastructure corporations.

The right direction

The Duterte government can address the transport crisis in the time of COVID-19 and in fact can look at the pandemic as an opportunity to overhaul the system. The health protocols may be followed indeed if only the government recognizes and addresses the transport crisis in a scientific manner.

There should be a first-step long-term modal shift from road to rail. The government can start by upgrading and adding rolling stock and rails to the train system. The corporations and officials of government agencies who forged lopsided privatization contracts should be held liable for poor service including breakdowns and accidents. The Philippines is among the first countries in Asia to have an urban rail system and has a long history of government running rail transport systems. These assets can be nationalized again and returned to public control. Rail transport can then be central to urban planning as well as to the dispersal of economic activities to the rural areas.

An efficient rail transport system, not to mention fully linked and accessible, will be the basis of an equally efficient route rationalization plan for PUBs and PUVs. The government should seriously conduct its own study to identify where the mass of commuters can have the most optimal travel time, including number of stops, from their workplaces to their homes. This should also include designation of walkways and bike lanes. It should not rely on self-interested privatization stakeholders to make such studies.

For a route rationalization plan to be truly systematic, PUBs and PUVs along with rail should be publicly run. Government can start by organizing PUBs and PUVs into cooperatives rather than allowing only single or corporate proprietorship of large fleets. It can also incentivize cooperatives to improve their service and compliance. Then, government can move on to careful consolidation of fleets through joint ventures and eventual nationalization. Such crucial steps will finally make PUB and PUV modes more economical and fares more affordable.

The DOTr is proposing to introduce service contract arrangements with private transport operators for the “new normal”. It also aims to shift from the “boundary system” to daily fixed wage for drivers and conductors so they can have steady incomes regardless of reduced ridership. This sounds acceptable, especially if we consider that transport groups have long been clamoring for government to abolish the “boundary system” to avoid competition-driven stresses, road hazards, and transport unpredictability.

However, the DOTr proposal remains outside the vision of living wages for transport workers, promoting their welfare and strengthening their unions, subsidizing commuters and controlling fares, and diminishing competition among the private contractors with stronger public control. In short, the current proposal should be within the framework of nationalization, lest it end up being another privatization contract.

The proposal is welcome if it is not being done in the context of the government’s jeepney modernization program. The Duterte administration cannot even give sufficient social amelioration to displaced drivers and conductors during a pandemic.

Moreover, government should once and for all restrain the explosive private car sales that defies all public mass transport logic. These just give the automotive corporations maximum returns on their businesses.

Finally, the pandemic gives us the vast opportunity to rethink sustainable development perspectives. The need for agrarian development and national industrialization cannot be overemphasized. But the government can start with arresting the anarchic building of offices especially for business process outsourcing and online gambling, shopping malls, hotels and leisure structures, residential and private subdivisions, and condominiums. Metro Manila’s urban development Is geared to increasing real estate profits and the wealth of the country’s economic oligarchs at the expense of public mobility and welfare.

Government can start by planning an economy that genuinely addresses severe inequalities existing pre-COVID-19 that, without corrective steps, will persist even far beyond. #

The anomaly of transport modernization (Part I)

by Rosario Guzman

The transport chaos on the first day of the less restrictive general community quarantine (GCQ) was painful to watch. With limited public transport, thousands of Metro Manila commuters eager to recover lost jobs and incomes were practically left on their own to figure out how to get to work.

Department of Transportation (DOTr) secretary Arthur Tugade said that the government has “concrete plans” for GCQ. He also had to say that the government is not “sacrificing the people” just to revive the economy, because that was what it seemed.

The recommendation by the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) to transition to GCQ was apparently based more on the compulsion to reopen business than on categorical facts of virus containment. The Duterte government was also reportedly already “out of funds” for socioeconomic relief.

The government once again resorted to the military. The military and police deployed trucks and cars to ferry the stranded passengers, breaking distancing protocol and betraying government’s lack of preparedness. Then, the usual victim blaming – the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and Malacañang blamed commuters for the mayhem. Then, the DOTr made a U-turn from its initial pronouncement and said that it never promised to meet the transport needs of the public under GCQ.

For the majority of poor commuters, what is more painful to see now is how the Duterte government, not backed by science, is on the verge of banning the traditional jeepney from the road forever and insisting that modernization is the cure.

If there is anything that COVID-19 has emphasized, it is the fact that the Philippine transport sector is in its worst crisis – a reality that the Duterte administration had repeatedly denied before the pandemic. If the economy has to transition to a genuinely better shape, the government has to address the basic woes of the transport sector. Vice versa, if the mass transport system has to be more efficient, the economy has to be transitioned to a genuinely better one.

But we seem to be stuck in our old problems.

Havoc in the new normal

The DOTr resumed public transport operations in two phases. During the first phase, trains and bus augmentation (which means bus loading and unloading at designated stations of MRT3), taxis, transport network vehicle services (TNVS), and point-to-point (P2P) buses were allowed with limits on the number of passengers. Tricycles were also allowed, subject to the approval of the concerned local government units (LGUs). Bicycles have also been encouraged.

During the second phase, public utility buses (PUB) and modern public utility vehicles or jeepneys (PUV/PUJ) were allowed with a limited number of passengers in rationalized routes. There are currently 30 routes from previously 96 routes for PUB and 34 new routes for the modern jeepneys. The DOTr will open more routes for the modern PUV in the coming days. Meanwhile, the traditional jeepneys remain prohibited from plying their routes unless seen as “roadworthy”. They are also the least priority and will only be used to fill in transportation gaps that arise.

Utility vans (UV) express will be allowed to operate with limited passengers as soon as more modern PUV routes are added. Provincial buses remain prohibited from entering Metro Manila.

The DOTr has also given some “new normal” guidelines, such as wearing of face masks at all times, cashless payments to avoid physical contact, use of thermal scanners, provision of alcohol and sanitizers, use of disinfection and establishment of disinfection facilities, and contact tracing. Costs for all of these are of course to be shouldered by the private transport operators and the passengers.

Apart from the added inconvenience these adjustments bring to the already unreliable mass transport system, there has also been lots of confusion on other relevant guidelines. The Philippine National Police (PNP) for instance prohibits backrides on motorcycles even for couples, yet some members of the police themselves are seen violating the rule. Interior and local government secretary Eduardo Año attempted to get around the prohibition by suggesting the use of sidecars but these are not allowed on the metro’s major highways.

Promoting the use of bicycles has not been accompanied by government policies to designate bike lanes and road-sharing with cyclists for a safe and efficient bike commute. Ironically, even the initiative by bikers’ groups and advocates to marshal the bike traffic along the “killer highway” Commonwealth Avenue was fined by the MMDA for “traffic obstruction”. Some LGUs are also reviving their old bike registration ordinances to collect fees even if they have not yet provided the needed support to bikers.

But the most glaring havoc is in the future of the traditional jeepneys – the ones that do not pass the DOTr’s standard of “modern” – which now hangs in the balance. Jeepneys were prohibited during the lockdown and are now under threat of being banned permanently from the roads in the name of the “new normal”.

The pandemic has obviously given the DOTr the opportunity to push for its “old normal” fixation on a modernization program that it has been proposing even before COVID-19. The modernization program revolves around: the digitization of fare and toll collection systems, vehicle registration, franchising, licensing, and navigation and positioning systems; routes rationalization; the transformation of EDSA; and jeepney phaseout.

It is premised on easing Metro Manila’s notorious traffic and pollution. But it is clearly a business-minded proposal that promotes the sales of private cars, modern PUVs and modern PUBs, and the privatization of transportation infrastructure. It is private transport-centric, while our obvious problem is the lack of an efficient and reliable public mass transport system. Now that the perennial road congestion is aggravated by physical distancing, the solution still seems to disfavor the mass of working class commuters.

Principles of E-R-A-S-E

The country badly needs an efficient, reliable, affordable, safe and environment-friendly public mass transport system. With or without the pandemic and physical distancing, these features of a public mass transport system should be ever-present for real and sustainable development. A strong government role is crucial in this.

Efficiency means that we are transported by vehicles through the shortest distance and in the shortest time possible. This also means less fuel use, less vehicle emissions, less costs, and less traffic.

Reliability means getting the mass of commuters to their destinations on time, with the least difference between the anticipated amount of travel time and the actual one. The crucial fact in reliability is that a large number of people rely on public transportation for their mobility.

Affordability and accessibility mean that the majority of the population who are wage workers and informal earners can afford public transportation and can easily avail of it from their dwelling and work places. This also includes facilities for persons with disability and senior citizens.

Safety includes measures that prevent harm to the riding public and create pedestrian-friendly conditions and infrastructure to reduce accidents and traffic deaths and to improve public health.

Finally, environment-friendly means public mass transport promotes healthier cities and living spaces. This includes the need to use clean and energy-efficient technologies and fuel for motorized transport on one hand, and the promotion of non-motorized modes such as walking and cycling on the other.

The crisis is real

The country’s public mass transport system is far from having these positive features. This reflects how the government has defaulted on its responsibility to ensure people’s mobility, and shows the general lack of national economic planning for sustainable development.

Our problem may be summarized as follows: 1) Mass transportation is left in the hands of private providers, including private rail corporations, bus franchises and single proprietors; 2) Deregulation is an operative principle in the entire sector, with the government’s role reduced to licensing, franchising and the like; 3) There is a lack of urban planning based on rural development and national industrialization that genuinely decongests the cities; and 4) Our mass transport system is corporate-driven, promoting the interests of infrastructure, transport, automobile and rail corporations as well as the profitability of real estate corporations, shopping malls, fare collecting banks, and the rest of the service-oriented and trading economy.

These problems manifest in many ways. The various modes of transportation are not fully linked, and there is heavy reliance on the ‘last-mile’ modes such as jeepneys, tricycles and even pedicabs. There is more road than rail transport, which is an indication of quite an unsustainable and expensive transport system. On the other hand, rail is privatized instead of being government-owned, controlled and operated, thus it is profit-driven and maintained by user-fees.

Fares are high as a consequence of privatized transport. According to the latest available data from the Family Income and Expenditure Survey in 2015, passenger transport for land travel eat up 7% of total non-food expenses of families in the National Capital Region (NCR). This covers fares for railway, jeepney, bus, taxi, tricycle and pedicab rides.

Transport is unreliable, with roads saturated and the quality of rail service poor. This is not to mention that roads are unsafe and rail accidents and breakdowns are frequent. Air pollution in the metropolis is one of the worst in the world, according to the World Health Organization. Lastly, there is a high volume of vehicles on the road. Navigation app Waze identified the Philippines as having “the worst traffic on earth”.

The anatomy of the transport mess

Metro Manila or the National Capital Region (NCR) has a total land area of 63,600 hectares and population of 12.9 million that swells to about 15 million by daytime. It accounts for one-third of the national economy and is home to about one-fourth of the urban population.

Metro Manila has six conferential roads and 10 radial roads. The radial roads do not intersect one another and intersect the conferential roads not more than twice. There are interchanges that separate these roads, but there are still missing sections in these interchanges. There are fully grade separated expressways in the north (NLEX), south (SLEX), and on the southwestern part (Cavitex) that connect Metro Manila to neighboring provinces.

These roads and highways were constructed to lead traffic in and out of the NCR. But lack of national economic planning has weakened job creation, increased rural poverty and displacement, and concentrated economic activities in the NCR. The region is the most congested city out of 278 cities in developing Asia, according to the Asian Development Bank (ADB). The region is brimming with urban blight and poverty.

There are the more recently built Metro Manila Skyway and Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Expressway to decongest SLEX and speed up travel to NAIA, the country’s major international gateway. These are also obviously to cope with the high traffic brought on by government’s labor export policy. The country’s international airports process the some 6,000 Filipino migrant workers who leave the country every day, which is more than twice as many as new jobs created locally.

There are more than three million registered motor vehicles in the NCR as of 2019, which accounts for almost one-fourth of the country’s total. This is a 9.7% increase from 2018 and a 28% increase from 2016, yet the urban space is finite and unchanging.

The latest data for vehicles disaggregated by type is as of 2016. It shows that motorcycles or tricycles comprised almost 40% of registered vehicles in NCR. Utility vehicles follow at 36% and cars and sports utility vehicles are at almost 30 percent.

On the other hand, the latest statistics on units for land transportation services is as of 2012, which shows that PUJs accounted for most of the franchises and units. There were 49,305 PUJ franchises and 50,153 PUJ units, which only shows that jeepney operators are small-scale and own only a little more than one unit. There were no registered PUBs in the NCR at that time, but there are 14,500 registered buses by 2016. If we try to extrapolate the 2012 data, considering that the number of PUJs almost remains the same over time, it means that PUJs and PUBs accounted for only 7.8% of registered utility vehicles in 2016.

The MMDA recorded an average daily volume of 405,882 vehicles plying the main thoroughfare EDSA in 2019, an increase of 22,054 vehicles from the previous year. About 63% of this volume are cars (255,732 units). PUBs make up only about 3% of total EDSA traffic, while PUJs are not allowed along EDSA. There is therefore no statistical basis to blame mainly the PUBs and PUJs for the traffic and transport anarchy in Metro Manila.

Traffic demand is at 12.8 million trips in Metro Manila, based on a study by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). Public transport accounts for 69% of total trips. The lesser share (31%) is done by private mode, and yet it is this mode that takes up 78% of road space. The traffic volume within the metropolis already exceeds the capacities of existing roads.

In terms of rail, Metro Manila has one commuter line (the Philippine National Railway or PNR) and three rapid rail lines (LRT1, LRT2 and MRT3). It has the least number of rail lines and the shortest urban rail system (51 kilometers) among 11 major Asian cities. The rail lines are not fully linked, only compounding the problem of an intermodal transport system where Metro Manila commuters use a variety of modes of transport and take an average of two to three transfers to reach their destinations.

MRT3 is privately owned like the PUBs, PUJs, taxis, TNVS, P2P, and UV express. The PNR, LRT1 and LRT2 are the only government transportation assets, although the operations and maintenance of LRT1 are privatized. The government does not subsidize fares, and in fact increases fares to attract private contractors.

The rapid rail system is the epitome of the inefficient, unreliable, unsafe and unsustainable public mass transport system in NCR. It is bogged down by frequent breakdowns, diminishing numbers of operational trains, accidents, inappropriate trains, and even non-working elevators and escalators. It is also in the center of corruption controversies.

Where does the commuter figure in all of this mess? The government through all its numerous transport agencies cannot even give a complete picture. An oft-cited study by JICA estimates that 39% of passengers’ trips in Metro Manila and nearby provinces are by jeepney and 38% are by tricycle. This indicates over-reliance on what has only been a coping mechanism for lack of system. Buses account for 13.6% and trains for only 8.6% of the number of trips by public mode.

Per day, LRT1 and MRT3 carry about half a million passengers each, while LRT2 ferries more than 200,000 passengers. Taking into account the number of registered buses and the estimated vehicle capacity by the JICA study, it may be surmised that buses also carry half a million passengers. Using the same extrapolation, jeepneys have the same passenger load.

Privatizing the rapid rail lines and phasing out the ever-reliable traditional jeepneys are therefore not solutions to the transport crisis. #

The last part of this series will discuss how government uses the pandemic to justify pre-COVID programs like the jeepney phaseout and Build, Build, Build that will further aggravate the socioeconomic crisis, and what steps government should take to genuinely address the country’s mass transport troubles.

Open-air jeepneys safer against COVID-19 than enclosed modernized counterparts

by IBON Media & Communications

With only modernized jeepneys allowed to resume operations this week, research group IBON said that keeping traditional jeepneys off the road inconveniences commuters and also denies them potentially safer means of transport.

The group said that the traditional open-air jeepney is likely even safer against COVID-19 than its air-conditioned modernized counterpart. With the pandemic still ongoing, insisting on jeepney modernization unnecessarily puts commuters at risk of possible airborne coronavirus infections.

The second phase of public transport resumption in general community quarantine (GCQ) areas will begin on June 22.

Public utility buses (PUB), modern public utility vehicles (PUVs) like modern jeepneys, and utility vans (UV) express will be allowed to operate.

Traditional jeepneys will remain prohibited.

IBON said that the Duterte administration is using COVID-19 as an excuse to force jeepneys off the road and fast-track its ill-conceived modernization.

IBON however said that the ban on traditional jeepneys should be lifted.

According to the group, there are studies which indicate that open-air transport may have advantages over enclosed, air-conditioned transport in controlling the spread of COVID-19.

Most coronavirus transmissions are acknowledged to occur via droplet infection, from coughing and sneezing, and partly through contaminated surfaces.

Nonetheless, recent studies show that the number of pathogens increases considerably in enclosed spaces and that regular ventilation reduces the risk of infection.

Despite physical distancing, enclosed modern jeepneys can become centers for spreading the virus compared to the natural ventilation of traditional jeepneys, said the group.

Medical researchers and physicists from the University of Amsterdam (UvA) have found that small cough droplets, potentially containing virus particles, can stay in the air of enclosed spaces especially when poorly ventilated.

Air quality and health experts from the Chinese Academy of Sciences similarly find that airborne transmission is a significant route of infection in indoor environments.

The UITP (Union Internationale des Transports Publics) or International Association of Public Transport, with 1,600 members in 96 countries, has issued guidelines warning that public transport systems are “high risk environments” due to the “confined space and limited ventilation”

The risk of community transmission through enclosed public transport has already prompted many countries to take specific measures against this, said IBON.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) advises “proper ventilation in [public transport] at all times” and “the use of windows [to] increase replacement with fresh air”.

Similarly, the United States (US) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) came out with guidelines for mass transit administrators which include, among others, “[increasing] circulation of outdoor air as much as possible”.

In Thailand, the transport ministry has instructed public transport operators to open windows for good air ventilation.

In China, some public transport groups have retrofitted window vents to air-conditioned fleets.

In India, buses are enjoined to improve ventilation by increasing the frequency of fresh air intake.

With COVID-19 still spreading, traditional jeepneys have the advantage of being open-air, dissipating droplets with the virus faster, and lowering the risk of transmission, said IBON.

Jeepney drivers prevented from going back to work by the government ask for help. (Kodao)

Yet the government’s narrow-minded focus on corporate-driven jeepney modernization threatens to forego this important built-in advantage in the mass transport system.

The pandemic is being used to put thousands of jeepney drivers out of work and take traditional jeepneys permanently off the road in a brutal enforced phaseout, the group said.

IBON stressed that efficient and reliable public transport is critical to resume as normal social and economic life as possible amid the pandemic.

Commuters suffering from the lack of jeepneys include many health workers and emergency service providers at the frontlines of the battle against COVID-19.

Jeepney drivers and operators need subsidies to make up for revenue losses and higher operating expenses. The current situation is also an opportunity to promote cooperativization towards the eventually nationalized public mass transport for ensuring this vital service. #

Ayuda para sa mga drayber, hiniling sa isang pagkilos

Isang maiksing pagkilos ang isinagawa ng mga drayber sa araw mismo ng paggawa sa isang barangay sa Quezon City. Ito ay para manawagan ng ayuda mula sa pamahalaan.

Simula nang ipataw ang lockdown ay hindi pa sila nakakakuha ng tulong kagaya ng Social Amelioration Program. Nagtatanong ang mga drayber na may-ari ng sarili nilang mga sasakyan kung kasali ba sila sa dapat mabigyan ng tulong dahil nawalan din sila ng hanapbuhay dahil sa lockdown. # (Bidyo ni Joseph Cuevas/ Kodao)