Jeepney drivers strike against Philippines transport system upgrades
Manila, Mar 6 (EFE).- Thousands of jeepney drivers in the Philippines started a week-long strike on Monday to protest the government’s plans to upgrade transport systems across the country.
Some 40,000 drivers of the kitsch mini-buses, which transport millions of Filipinos on short journeys daily, hit the brakes in Manila although many others continued to take passengers to avoid losing a day’s income, local media reported.
Footage of the protests showed drivers shouting slogans and displaying banners as they marched through the capital.
To make up for the reduced transport services, authorities in several districts of the Manila metropolitan area deployed hundreds of alternative vehicles and offered free rides.
Authorities also lifted restrictions on private cars circulating in downtown Manila.
The government’s plan to upgrade the nation’s transport system, which was first presented in 2017, will retire the iconic jeepneys, which due to their outdated design are a major contributor to air pollution, in favor of more modern ones.
Opponents of the plan say it will hurt the Southeast Asian country’s poorest, with many drivers unable to afford newer and more efficient vehicles, despite the aid the government has earmarked for the transition.
Providing an essential public service, jeepneys have become a cultural symbol of the Philippines and have a special place in the nation’s identity.
The colorful buses have been around since the end of World War II when the United States military left its surplus jeeps behind. The vehicles were later converted into mini-buses and adorned in bright colors and motifs.
For years, Philippine authorities have been trying to renovate jeepneys, which use old, highly polluting second-hand engines, as well as attempting to regulate how they operate, with passengers able to request a stop wherever they want by just uttering the word ‘para’ – Spanish for ‘stop’. EFE