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Palace: Government open to ‘healthy’ dialogue with transport groups

Public transport drivers and supporters stage a die-in along a busy Manila avenue to signal a planned two-day public transport strike nationwide to protest the government's phase out of the WWII-era passenger transport locally known as "Jeepney" Monday, Oct. 16, 2017 in Manila, Philippines. The protesters scored the government for the "Jeepneys" phaseout which will be replaced allegedly with not-so-affordable models. AP/Bullit Marquez

MANILA, Philippines — The Malacañan on Wednesday said the administration is willing to engage in “healthy dialogue” with transport groups regarding the government’s Public Utility Vehicle Modernization program.

Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said the government is willing to conduct responsible engagements with the groups who wish to learn and contribute to the modernization program.

“This is a wide window of opportunity for everyone -- drivers, the operators, the riding public. The public needs to discern that some ideolgical influences can derail the greater good. Let us move forward towards the comfortable life that PRRD is fighting for,” Abella said in a statement.

Abella explained that Duterte’s “fervid support of modernization goes back to the attempts of previous administrations to whose attempts to do the same.” He, however, said the previous attempts were halted by transport strikes and protests.

Despite this, Abella said the Duterte government will not negotiate when the public’s welfare is compromised.

“However, when public good is at stake, the Duterte administration will not compromise. This is the message of the President’s speech yesterday. It underscores the national leadership’s strong political will and decisive stance to initiate reform in the public transportation sector,” Abella said.

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Abella made the statement after President Rodrigo Duterte criticized Pinagkaisahang Samahan ng Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide (PISTON) for staging a two-day rally and opposing the government’s plan to phase out jeepneys aged 15 years and older.

“Mahirap kayo? P***** ***, magtiis kayo sa hirap at gutom, wala akong pakialam. (You are poor? S*** of a b****, endure poverty and hunger. I don’t care.) It's the majority of the Filipino people. Huwag ninyo ipasaubo ang tao, (Don’t involve the public)," Duterte said in a profanity-laced speech.

The president threatened transport groups which will still operate in 2018 as he ordered them to follow the modernization program starting January 1 next year.

Duterte also said that he believes transport groups are working together with the New People's Army to destabilize the government. 

 

The two-day strike staged October 16 and 17 prompted suspension of government work and classes in all levels nationwide.

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