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TURNING POINT: Modernizing Transport and Clean Air

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NAAWAN, Misamis Oriental (MindaNews / 07 April) — The Jeepney modernization program cannot make a leap forward because it is entangled in unresolved social and economic issues.

A modern jeepney unit is quite costly and is unaffordable to many stakeholders. If the modernization program will be forcibly implemented the old public utility vehicles will be out of the road.

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Many will lose their livelihoods – operators, drivers, barkers, and food stall owners. Commuters will miss work, school, business or medical appointments. Imagine the chaos that may yet turn to riots if wrong decisions are made on this modernization conundrum.

The modernization program offers safer, comfortable and healthy travel, freer from toxic dust and smoke pollutants. This advantage is undeniable. The comely attraction is offset, however, by the reduction of public transport in the process, if the cost and availability issues are not resolved.

But there may be a way out.

Because the government is the one proposing the program, it ought to shoulder the burden of realizing it. It should take the bull by its horns.

For instance, the government may invest in the production of the modern jeepney units; give jeepney operators the privilege to trade in their old units (which could be recycled into steel materials needed in unit fabrication), the balance of which may be paid in a soft loan scheme, say, of longer payment period.

Indeed, it is to everyone’s advantage if the government would take the front in implementing the modernization program. It has access to capital from its own reserves or from international financing facilities.

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The program may take a long time to realize, if at all, if hinged on the capacity of jeepney operators and envisioned cooperatives whose access to capital is meager.

Things are simplified. The pace of the implementation of the program rests on the capacity of the government to produce and distribute the desired modern transport, no longer on the financial capacity of private stakeholders.

Breathing clean air is something to cherish especially in the metropolis. This is an advantage advanced by the government in promoting the jeepney modernization program. The government, should, however, be consistent in this health concern.

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It ought not to close an eye and open another on the matter. To be serious on this, it should strictly ban the importation of used vehicles and heavy equipment.

In Cagayan de Oro, for instance, innumerable used transport vehicles and heavy equipment of all kinds are stocked in holding compounds within the city area, sprawling to the suburbs, along the national highways and to nearby municipalities. These thousands of good looking trash visible in this city is likely visible, too, in other cities and urban centers across the country.

We have willingly become the dumpsite of other countries’ solid wastes.

This madness must end to protect the health of the populace.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. William R. Adan, Ph.D., is retired professor and former chancellor of Mindanao State University at Naawan, Misamis Oriental, Philippines.)

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