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Mystery of why PBBM standing pat on Duterte’s jeepney phase out

There is some mystery in the obduracy of Pres. Bongbong Marcos (PBBM) in pursuing the jeepney modernization law. Let’s try to unravel the mystery.

Modernizing jeepneys is supposed to be for a better environment; that is, to make public transport non-pollutive. But the premise that jeepneys are pollutive is to say that the Land Transportation Office’s (LTO) emission testing centers are useless. Yet there is no move to scrap the emission centers.

There are about 300,000 jeepneys nationwide, a fraction of some 12.5 million vehicles all over the country. In Metro Manila, there are an estimated 73,000 jeepneys as against a total of 2.5 million vehicles. If emission centers are inefficient, it does not make sense to zero in only on jeepneys as they comprise only a fraction of the total vehicles in the country.

But if the government insists that emission testing centers are doing well, then the government must scrap pollution as one factor to justify jeepney modernization. They wouldn’t be legally plying routes had they not passed emission tests.

So what then? The other justification would be that most jeepneys have become ugly while proposed alternatives are new and therefore not unsightly at all. Here we see tourism as the only major factor to render jeepneys unacceptable as most of them have indeed become eye sores, but not necessarily mechanically troubled… or they would not have passed LTO emission tests.

If their being unsightly is the lone reason for modernization, would a sensible leader insist on imposing on jeepney owners and drivers some P2 million worth of alternative vehicles to pay for? This is beyond good sense considering that jeepney drivers are never known to be earning lucratively, especially amid worldwide inflation even despite subsidy commitment by the government. Can’t repainting the jeepneys, which many tourism brochures have been fond of highlighting as iconic in Philippine setting, be a simpler option?

Indeed, there are reports that the “modern” units already plying some routes in Metro Manila way back in 2019 are already coughing in fits and starts.

Now the other modernization reason being cited is to provide a safer mode of transport for the public. But would not subsidizing upgrades of machines and/or chassis be a significantly much less burdensome alternative for poor jeepney owners instead of imposing an entirely new and undoubtedly unaffordable vehicle on them? Again, the jeepneys would not have passed emission parameters had their machines been in some degree of disrepair.

While current government officials under the Department of Transportation, in a seeming Pontius Pilate act, cite PBBM as standing pat on modernization, we know it was birthed by former Transport Secretary Arthur Tugade, he who pushed then president Duterte to announce in media that EDSA traffic would be gone in three weeks, who proposed a logical solution to such traffic catarrh by constructing cable cars, who pioneered decentralization of Metro Manila by transferring the main office of his agency to Clark Freeport. Visionary, it was said of him, but the appellation does not imply practicality.

Despite growing criticism of him, especially of his reportedly over-meddling wife, PBBM is not bowing out of jeepney modernization, as he ignores growing protests from the public transport industry folk. It’s not certainly in deference to an unfinished legacy from his predecessor Rody Duterte, with whom some gap has been noted to be widening fast.

In his recent sorties abroad, PBBM has been boasting of the jeepney modernization plan as contribution to an international effort to reduce carbon footprint being blamed for climate change, a huge bugbear being raised by Schwab and his apostles in  the World Economic Forum (WEF).

Note that in January 2023, PBBM and his wife flew to Davos, Switzerland to attend an annual meeting of WEF, so as to promote the Philippines as a “leader”, “driver of growth” and “gateway to the Asia-Pacific region.”

In an interview before departure, PBBM proudly said that in Davos, he was to meet with Klaus Schwab, WEF founder and chairman. That says a lot. Schwab has lately been openly declaring that various countries have already committed virtual obedience of the WEF which is known to espouse unusual measures in the name of fighting climate change among other objectives, spelling world dominance.

Yes, PBBM must have presented the jeepney phase out project as his commitment to Schwab who is bowed to by prominent leaders, such as Canadian premiere Justin Trudeau, and regarded as the guru in charge of shaping an emerging one-world government. To earn his pat on the back is international eclat.

And so it must be that PBBM is not about to displease Schwab. This seems to be a major reason, if not the only reason, why the President is unusually deaf and blind to protests and appeals, unminding even of good reason.  As his wife would be wont to say, “I’m very New York,” so international, so WEF.

Of course, there’s the possible issue of corruption, but government transport leaders are mouthing measures of distance from evil… But then, in this country of ours, greed knows no eclat… However, I would go for the WEF backdrop. For now.