THERE were no apologies from Malacañang after President Rodrigo Duterte threatened jeepney drivers who would refuse to comply with the government order to modernize their vehicles by buying the units worth P1.6 million each.
“The President’s fervid support of modernization goes back to the attempts by previous administrations but had been thwarted due to similar transport strikes and protests. However, when public good is at stake, the Duterte administration will not compromise. This is the message of the President’s speech yesterday (Tuesday),” Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in a statement on Wednesday.
Abella said the President was merely underscoring strong political will and decisiveness to initiate reforms in the public transportation sector by banning all public utility vehicles (PUVs) that were more than 15 years old.
Duterte’s statement on Tuesday night was from a speech during the Federalism event in Camarines Sur.
”January 1, pag ‘di niyo na modernize ‘yan, umalis kayo. Mahirap kayo? P…….a magtiis kayo sa hirap at gutom; wala akong pakialam (If you don’t modernize your jeepneys by January 1, then leave. You’re poor? Son of a b!@$h, then be stay poor and deal with hunger. I don’t care).
Abella said that everyone—from drivers, operators and commuters—will hugely benefit under the PUV modernization program.
Abella, however, clarified that the government was open to a more healthy dialogue and responsible engagements with transport groups wishing to learn and contribute to the development of the PUV modernization program.
“This is a wide window of opportunity for everyone. Let us move forward towards the comfortable life that President Duterte is fighting for,” Abella said.
Transport groups staged a nationwide strike on Monday and Tuesday in protest of the jeepney modernization program.
Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade said that he supported the filing of economic sabotage charges against the protesters.
Aileen Lizada, spokesman of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) claimed that the two-day transport strike was an attempt to destabilize the government.
The Palace suspended classes in all levels in public and private schools nationwide on September 25, October 16 and 17 due to the strike. Government work was suspended on Oct. 16 and 17.