For Jeepney Drivers and Truckers in the Philippines, a Long, Hard Slog

Given the low take-home pay for long work hours, Filipino jeepney drivers should probably be honored – not punished — for being relatively humble, disciplined and controlled. In America, so-called road rage is common and researchers have confirmed that private vehicles ranked as the No. 2 most frequently used murder weapon. In the Philippines, it is mostly the private motorists who shoot and murder people in cases of road rage, not jeepney drivers.

“I have learned to tell the most dramatic sob stories I could think of to wiggle out of traffic violations,” said Mendoza. “But there really are stone-hearted traffic enforcers. These days,” he said, “enforcers smirk at a P50 ($1.03) bribe offer. They would even retort scornfully, ‘Do we look like kids?’”

Boon for Oil Companies

Meanwhile, as of February this year, arrastre firms said the volume of goods being transported for import and export has gone down by 65 percent.

According to Ricky Papa, president of the Alliance of Concerned Truck Owners and Organizations and a member of Task Force July 13, this has severely reduced their income from their businesses. As truckers scramble and compete for what is left of the import-export goods to transport around the country, he complained that they are also finding it hard to plan for their business because of the rapid increases in oil prices, not to mention the huge taxes on oil.

As if these were not enough, Papa complained that, like public transport drivers, cargo truckers also frequently fall prey to bribe-seeking traffic enforcers. He said Department Orders 38 and 39 from the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) have increased administrative fees, fines and penalties for traffic violations by as much as 1,000 percent. As a result, he said, the amount of bribe being demanded by traffic enforcers has also gone up by two or three times or more.

“We are terribly hurt by the oil-deregulation law and the increased taxes, fees, fines and penalties,” said Bong Duka, driver and president of Unified the Transport Federation of Makati.

“We’re being treated like milking cows by the Arroyo government and the oil cartel,” said Domingo Achoso, an employee in a bus company.

Papa’s group, which is comprised of 500 small trucking companies, would stop transporting goods during strike today. Achoso and other employees of bus companies whose unions are members of Task Force July 13, on the other hand, would join jeepney drivers at their strike centers.

Today and in the future, they said, they would convince their karuta (fellow drivers plying the same route) to protest the greed of the Arroyo government and the oil cartel. (Bulatlat.com)

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