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FIRING LINE: Transport’s chaotic situation foretold

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By Robert B. Roque, Jr.

The chaos in the public transport sector, with jeepney drivers pressuring the government to scrap the PUVMP, is a predictable disaster forewarned by former Vice President Leni Robredo in April 2022.

Robredo astutely pointed out the challenges faced by the transport sector, emphasizing the burdensome terms of the program. She advocated for expanded subsidies and lenient payment terms, resonating with the very issues causing turmoil today.

The recent LTFRB’s one-month grace period, extending the consolidation deadline, is a testament to the program’s impracticality. The Marcos administration’s failure to address the genuine concerns of transport groups has led to a chaotic situation where nearly 70% of units remain unconsolidated.

Robredo’s foresight exposes the government’s negligence, pushing an unyielding PUVMP during a pandemic-induced economic slump, disproportionately affecting financially strapped operators. The meager utilization of the allocated budget for service contracting further underscores the administration’s need for more commitment to meaningful reform.

As jeepney drivers fight for survival, the blame squarely rests on the Marcos administration’s deaf ears to these points echoed by Robredo when she was contesting the presidency.

If Mr. Bongbong does not see eye-to-eye with Robredo, he should at least acknowledge the chaotic state the public transport sector now faces for a foretold crisis left unheeded.

Labor groups, for example, have insisted on the imminent threat to workers’ livelihoods. The Federation of Free Workers projected a staggering 144,000 job losses due to the PUVMP. The Partido Manggagawa underscores the potential disenfranchisement of jeepney drivers, impacting their freedom of association.

Moreover, environmental concerns raised by the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ) add another layer to the debacle. PMCJ rejects the government’s eco-friendly claims, asserting that the PUVMP fails to align with UN recommendations for sustainable and energy-efficient transportation.

PMCJ’s Larry Pascua criticizes the program for not addressing carbon emissions, emphasizing the continued reliance on fossil fuels by supposedly modern units. The environmental group urges a direct shift to genuinely eco-friendly units powered by renewable energy.

 No wonder Marcos’s numbers are going down

This hint of incompetence in dealing with the transport sector could have, perhaps, contributed to the results of the recent PAHAYAG End of the Year survey by PUBLiCUS Asia, Inc., which unveiled a diminishing public sentiment towards the Marcos administration.

Only 46% of 1,500 respondents polled last month favored the government, down from 50% at the end of 2022. Concurrently, opposition aversion has waned, dropping to 32% from 40%. Any internal analyst of the administration would be alarmed even with anti-administration sentiment stagnating at 18% but neutrality surging to 36% from 30% the previous year.

I agree with PUBLiCUS Asia, pointing out unaddressed issues such as price inflation, joblessness, low wages, and perceived productivity gaps as drivers behind this political shift. Notably, a discernible migration of pro-administration voters towards neutrality underscores the administration’s evident shortcomings.

That is even with the incidental aid of the previous administration’s discreditation of the opposition. Clearly, economic anxieties — marked by 20 consecutive months of 4.1% inflation, surpassing the BSP target, and a persistent 6.2% average in 2023 — have cast giant shadows over Marcos’s leadership.

 
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SHORT BURSTS. For comments or reactions, email firingline@ymail.com or tweet @Side_View via X app (formerly Twitter). Read current and past issues of this column at http://www.thephilbiznews.com

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