Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) support PISTON and No to Jeepney Phaseout Coalition’s 2-day transport strike not just for sentimental reasons. After all, the iconic “Katas ng Saudi” is symbolized by the very jeepneys that the Duterte government is now pushing to phase-out.
No, OFWs realize that their present conditions can now hardly sustain their families’ daily needs. And their savings, if at all, can hardly afford the P1.6 million cost of one e-Jeep. So, goodbye, “Katas ng Saudi”. There goes another opportunity for our OFWs to invest in something that would contribute to nation-building, in this case, mass transport that benefits millions.
More importantly, OFWs support the transport strike not because they are anti-modernization. OFWs are the last people to shun the benefits of a modern, efficient and systematized mass transport. In progressive host countries where they are, OFWs already experience how mass trains, buses and other means of public transport service and prioritize millions who do not have means. Of course, they want the same for millions Filipinos in the homeland, for their families, children and relatives who are motorists and commuters alike.
OFWs support the transport strike because they reject any and all so-called “modernization” schemes in which they and their families and the general public bear the brunt. They reject the Duterte government’s PUVModernization program because it is anti-poor and anti-masses. It plans to replace the humble jeepney with something “modern” that both drivers/operators and commuters cannot afford. Instead, mass transport will be privatized, monopolized by big corporations that can afford to pay millions and millions for a fleet of 20 units, the minimum number required per operator in the program.
Only the Ayalas, Aboitizes or the multimillionaires who funded Duterte’s presidency can afford the PUVModernization scheme. These multimillionaires are engaged in utilities, manufacturing, mining and infrastracture. According to an investigative report by the PCIJ, Duterte has already appointed at least half a dozen and their relatives to his Cabinet six months after elections. Others are still waiting for payback, it seems, in terms of business and other government “modernization” programs. This is not the type of “modernization” that OFWs support.
Like the general public, OFWs are also exasperated with the incorrigible traffic problem. More so because they experience first-hand abroad how a systematized and efficient mass transport system and urban planning can make the Philippines a country that they would wish to come home to. However, Duterte’s PUVModernization program is not geared towards improving the lives of motorists and commuters alike but towards ensuring more profit for big businesses and foreign investors.
What do OFWs want? OFWs wish for a nationalized public mass transport system that genuinely and sincerely considers the present situation of motorists and commuters alike. Instead, the Duterte government is deliberately dividing the public transport sector and commuters on diversionary arguments, as if both do not share the same interests and vision for a better Philippines.
Is a nationalized public mass transport feasible? OFWs believe it is. If Duterte is really sincere in upgrading old jeepneys and resolving the traffic problem, it should channel government resources to subsidize mass transport, at no cost to both drivers/operators and commuters. It should re-orient Dutertenomics to a pro-masses agenda and depart from neoliberal dictates that burden the public, especially the lowly drivers/operators and the poor masses. Any efforts to “modernize” will not be fruitful if not founded on genuine rural development and national industrialization that would prioritize people over profit. ###