EDITORIAL | Salus populi, suprema lex

On Monday, transport groups will once again go on strike to drive home their point: the government should not phase out jeepneys over 15 years old, as it is set to do so as part of the modernization program.

Transport groups claim that the phaseout is “anti-poor” as the it would cause drivers and operators to enter into loans to purchase new vehicles. In addition, they allege that many drivers and operators might lose their jobs because of said phaseout.

This line of reasoning, however, seems rather narrow-minded, clouded possibly by their nostalgic attachment to the iconic post-war vehicle.

When weighed against the higher goals of road safety and environmental sustainability, these gripes appear petty and prejudiced, not to mention clearly political in nature. After all, financial assistance amounting to P1.5 billion will be given to transport corporations and cooperatives to purchase new vehicles, as the DOTr has repeatedly announced.

The modernization’s objectives are undoubtedly noble: safety and sustainability, which are hardly provided by the outdated jeepneys.

The DOTr also claims the program will make way for the decongestion of traffic, another perennial problem. Other benefits, according to the DOTr are fairer regulations, predictable travel time, and disciplined and competent drivers.

Isn’t it time we give these aims a chance instead of being, as Atty. Ricardo Diaz points out, “resistant to change and hell bent on perpetuating the vestiges of a less enlightened past, an anachronism in these times when internal combustion engines are being replaced with environment-friendly electric vehicles”?
Meantime, the transport strike on Monday will once again paralyze traffic to the point that classes and work are cancelled, and precious learning or working time is wasted, all because transport groups are blinded by their own biases.

In the end: salus populi, suprema lex. The welfare of the people (and not of a group of childish, irrational groups) should be the supreme law.