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Gov’t VIPs taking jeeps? DOTr usec agrees, but…

Transport officials don’t mind commuting to work, but don’t think it’s enough to give them a full grasp of Metro Manila’s traffic problem.

Having transport officials ditch their cars and join the weary multitudes would only “partly” help them understand what commuters and motorists go through, Transport Undersecretary Mark de Leon said on Monday.

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“Will it help them understand the problem of transportation? Partly yes. I have no problems with that,” he said.

Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo on Monday filed a bill requiring transport officials to take public transport at least once a month “to have a firsthand experience on how to solve the problem.”

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‘Empathy’ a good start

This, he said, would instill “empathy” with the commuters — the tens of thousands who ride jeepneys, buses and other means of public transport, and spend hours on congested roads to reach work and school every day.

The measure particularly applies to officials from the Department of Transportation (DOTr), the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board with the rank of director and higher.

De Leon, who takes public transport to work “without fanfare,” agreed that commuting could help them understand the plight of the riding public.

Driver mentality

But he said he wasn’t sure whether it could make them “effective” officials.

“Riding a bus or jeep alone would not address it. You need to understand the mentality of the drivers, the operators. You need to see the complete picture,” he said.

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What the problem ultimately needs, he said, is a policy-based approach, such as the government’s public utility vehicle modernization program (PUVMP).

The program, expected to fully roll out in 2020, seeks to replace old and dilapidated PUVs with Euro-4 compliant and roadworthy ones.

“The PUVMP was cast as a policy because of the riding public in mind. It was there because we were once regular commuters once in our lives,” De Leon said. “What it needs is support from the stakeholders.”

Nothing new

Otherwise, the DOTr looked forward to working with Castelo on his proposal and other legislation that would deal with “transportation needs.”

“We would like to note that even in the absence of a bill, most of our officials take public transport,” the DOTr said in a statement.

Requiring officials to take public transport—bringing them down to the level of bedraggled commuters squeezed into tight trains or decrepit buses and jeeps—is nothing new.

In 2014, Sen. Grace Poe rode the Metro Rail Transit 3 days before she opened an inquiry into MRT glitches, including a derailing incident that injured 36.

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TAGS: Department of Transportation, DoTr, Mark De Leon, Metro Manila traffic, public transportation, Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program, PUVMP, Winston Marcelo
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