Expanding their role under the Duterte govt
ARE pedestrians blind not to notice which jeepney to take to their destination? Are barkers really necessary? You see them practically everywhere, not just at jeepney stations – where there are terminals for taxis, express vans, buses, tricycles, there are barkers shouting at the top of their voices to call for passengers coming from all directions. Along Vito Cruz and Taft Avenue in Manila, for instance, you can see two to three barkers at different spots at any given time, multi-tasking as parking attendants and tourism assistants, if not motel tipsters.
I won’t be surprised if I learn that they’re also peddling illegal drugs or acting as tong collectors for pot-bellied traffic enforcers hidden from public sight. Positioned at strategic street corners all day, many of them could offer or deliver more than what might be expected of them by clueless pedestrians, passengers, bystanders or mere passersby.
Barkers may be regarded as a usual example of the underemployed Filipino, though they’re better off than the minimum wage earner. Take Eddie. He’s a barker who boasts of earning more than P650 net a day, more than what an employee of a print copy shop is receiving. Validating this fact is an employee of that copy shop who regularly trades with Eddie to split his large bills into loose change.
There are ways Eddie could increase his daily intake. But why can’t the well-known establishments in that area offer people like him additional work to boost his income, say for instance, cleaning their front premises? If you have been to that area of Vito Cruz and Taft, you’d be perturbed at the amount of litter that get dumped there every day. Indeed, it’s a microcosm of the dirty urban street scene we see in different parts of Metro Manila, you wonder whether it is due to the negligence of or quality of the leadership of government leaders, or both, at the national and local levels?
Of course, there’s no doubt about it.
The streets around us are teeming with apparent excess labor. They’re your everyday unemployed workers who continue to dream of a better life, but meanwhile work as barkers or something similar.
We should be happy about something at least—being a poor country populated by Christians, we don’t lose hope in life, unlike Japan, which has logged an annual average of 30,000 suicides over the past years, although the trend has gone down as it did in 2014, when the average dropped to 25,000.
But that’s still an average of 70 Japanese deaths a day, which was highlighted last year by the “grim self-immolation of a 71-year-old man aboard a Japanese bullet train,” according to a report by the BBC.
Christianity is helping us Filipinos survive poverty, depression, lawlessness, among other things, with the belief that suicide is considered a mortal sin. On the other hand, many Japanese still subscribe to the Samurai practice of “seppuku” or honorable death.
Now, just because we have elected strongman Rodrigo Duterte as President, I hope people don’t advocate a radical rethinking of eliminating poverty by assisted suicide. If the barkers are already on the streets, exposing themselves to smog and other elements, why should anyone think of assisted suicide? The issue we should be thinking about is—orderliness, cleanliness and beautification of our cities and localities, and the barker’s role in all that.
That’s why I’m all for hiring these transport terminal barkers to perform formal, paid jobs like sweeping the streets of litter and possibly serving as traffic assistants to help clear our roads of all kinds of obstructions. If you can’t still appreciate the logic of this humble idea of shooting two birds with one stone (giving jobs and ensuring road order) to barkers, then why should we pretend to accept that Duterte can do the job as leader at the national level?
Sure, by all means, let’s double the salaries of our policemen and teachers, if Duterte wants it that way. Perhaps that will help solve the problem of corruption and the low quality of our education, among other issues. But if all of our streets and other public places are clean, peaceful, and orderly, and if you take out thousands of dilapidated jeepneys clogging our roadways, then maybe that would also help us become an economically progressive country.
Another obvious issue is congestion in Metro Manila. Traffic jams are a direct result of undisciplined public transport drivers, sidewalk street vendors and lazy traffic enforcers. This problem can easily be resolved by enforcing traffic rules in accordance with the letter and spirit of the law.
Rey Elbo is a business consultant specializing in human resources and total quality management as a fused interest. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter for his random management thoughts.