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Duterte threatens drivers, operators to modernize jeepneys or get towed

Activists and jeepney drivers hold banners during a jeepney transport strike held in Manila on October 16, 2017. Jeepney drivers and activists staged a nationwide transport strike in protest against the government's plan to phase out the ubiquitous passenger jeepney as part of a modernization campaign to turn the Philippines' main form of public transport green. Noel Celis/AFP
MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte Tuesday threatened to tow old jeepneys next year as he expressed support for the government’s public utility vehicle modernization program.
 
Duterte chided the Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide (Piston) for opposing the program even if old model jeepneys emit smoke that could cause health risks.
 
 
“You know the machines, the engines of PUJs (public utility jeepneys), are about 20 to 25 years old. We got them from the other countries. The reconditioned ones were sold here and they have been pumping in so much carbon dioxide into the air, including the factories,” the president said in Filipino during a federalism forum in Camarines Sur.
 
“I'll give you until the end of the month or until the end of the year. Comply because come January 1, if I see an unregistered jeepney, old ones, I will have it towed in front of you. If you want disarray, I have lots of policemen,” he added.
 
In a speech in Marawi City also Tuesday, Duterte claimed the old PUVs are “poisoning the people especially the poor.” 
 
Piston members staged a two-day transport strike to express their opposition to the PUV modernization program. Piston claimed that the program would result in fare hikes and would pose additional burden to transport operators.
 
Duterte said Piston is free to stage protests but insisted that the modernization program would continue. He also accused the militant groups of exploiting the issue and of being involved in “one big conspiracy.” 
 
“Here comes Piston and the rest of the left. They are making a big deal out of it. I said go ahead, demonstrate. I don’t mind even if you do that twice or thrice a month,” the president said.
 
“I am telling Piston and the rest of the left. They are all legal. I am just telling the truth. (Human rights group) Karapatan, (labor group) KMU (Kilusang Mayo Uno), Piston, they are just the legal fronts of the Communist Party of the Philippines… It’s one big conspiracy. All of them are committing right now rebellion,” he added.
 
 
Duterte said public interest dictates that the government implement the PUV modernization program despite the opposition of Piston.
 
He said the United Nations has estimated that the cases of lung cancer in the country would have tripled by 2025. 
 
“There is a time for friendship and there is a time to be reasonable and there is a time for reconciliation and a time for hatred,” Duterte said.
 
“Filipinos are at stake here. I am the president of the nation. I have to abandon the civilities and the niceties of life. When I was mayor, you were my friends…This time I am the president of the Republic of the Philippines and it’s not about me. It’s about the law.”
 
 
Duterte demanded that Piston comply with the laws and the government's policies, saying he does not care if its members are poor. 
 
“I am the president. Either you kill me or you follow me. If the law is not followed, son of a b****, we have to kill each other,” he said. 
 
“Mahirap kayo? P**** i** Magtiis kayo sa hirap at gutom, wala akong pakialam (You are poor? Son of a b****. Endure hunger and poverty. I don't care). It's the majority of Filipinos. Huwag ninyong ipasubo ang tao (Do not defy the people).”
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