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Manila’s jeepney experiment

December 2013
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A few months ago, and almost right after the local elections, the City of Manila embarked on a campaign to reduce the number of colorum or illegal buses plying along the streets of the city. The result was confusion and mayhem as commuters and authorities were unprepared to deal with the sudden decrease in the number of buses (some companies even restrained all of their buses from entering Manila to protest the city’ move) and the jeepneys and UV express couldn’t handle the demand. Much of that seems to have been resolved and buses are now back in Manila; although whether all these buses are legal ones is still unclear. The city, it seems to some quarters, was only after buses with no formal terminals in the city and appeared to have made the drive to show bus companies who’s in-charge there.

Now comes a drive against jeepney drivers, particularly those undisciplined ones that are often found violating traffic rules and regulations, and endangering their passengers with their brand of driving. The result was a one-day strike (tigil pasada) of jeepneys belonging to the Federation of Jeepney Operators and Drivers Associations in the Philippines (FEJODAP), one of several organized jeepney groups in the country. Others like operators and drivers from Pasang Masda, PISTON and ACTO, opted not to join the transport strike. The result was a transport protest that had little impact on most people’s commutes though the group did manage to attract media attention and gave interviews to whoever cared to listen.

Not to judge Manila as I believe it has made huge strides by confronting the many urgent issues in transport in the city. Not many cities take these problems head on as Manila has done this year. However, the jury is still out there if their efforts have been effective and if these will be sustainable and not the ningas cogon kind that we have seen so much of in the past. For definitely, there are a lot of other transport issues that Manila needs to contend with including how to make the city more walkable and bicycle-friendly (not an easy task!) and how to address the excessive number of pedicabs (non-motorized 3-wheelers) and kuligligs (motorized 3-wheelers using generator sets or pumpboat motors for power) in the city. Hopefully, again, the city will be up to the task of addressing these problems along with the persistent congestion along its roads.

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