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Not compromising public good, Palace explains, a day after Duterte taunts Piston

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 — The government is willing to have a dialogue with the transport sector on the public utility vehicle modernization program but would not agree to a compromise if public good is at stake, Malacañang said Thursday.
 
Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said the program, which critics claimed would burden transport workers and passengers, reflects the administration’s “strong political will and decisive stance to initiate reform in the public transportation sector.”
 
“Government is open to more healthy dialogue, discussion and responsible engagements with transport groups that wish to learn and contribute to the development of the PUV Modernization Program. This is a wide window of opportunity for everyone — drivers, the operators, the riding public,” Abella said in a statement.
 
“However, when public good is at stake, the Duterte administration will not compromise. This is the message of the president’s speech yesterday (October 17),” he added.
 
On Tuesday, Duterte assailed transport group Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide (Piston), which held a two-day strike this week to oppose the PUV modernization program.
 
 
Duterte said he was giving Piston members until the end of the year to comply with the program, adding that 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).”
 
He threatened to tow non-compliant PUVs next year and to arrest those who would continue to defy the policy.
 
The president noted that the old PUVs are emitting smoke that could cause ailments like lung cancer. But critics of the modernization program insist that it would cause fire hikes and affect the livelihood of drivers.
 
Abella said the PUV modernization program has been halted by “ideologically-based” transport strikes and protests. He was apparently referring to Duterte’s claim that Piston is a legal front of the Communist Party of the Philippines and is conspiring with other left-leaning groups to stage a rebellion.
 
 
“The president’s fervid support of modernization goes back to the attempts of previous administrations to whose attempts to do the same but had been thwarted due to similar ideologically based transport strikes and protests,” the presidential spokesman said.  
 
“The public needs to discern that some ideological influences can derail the greater good. Let us move forward towards the comfortable life that PRRD is fighting for,” he added.
 
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