Freedom and Persecution

Freedom and persecution – INQ7.netis my column for today.

Meanwhile, news that a Transport strike kicks off in Metro Manila, nearby provinces –, makes me ponder some things.

1. I am generally not in favor of government being in business, but when it comes to Metro Manila at least, I am in favor of nationalizing the public transport sector, or at the very least, restricting service for particular routes to specific operators. The reason for this is that Metro Manila’s major roads are the supreme example of the chaos and inefficiency that result from unregulated competition. The bus companies, for example, pay measly wages to bus drivers and conductors, who therefore race against each other to scoop up passengers. This is dangerous to drivers and passengers and bystanders. Commuters cannot rely on timetables or an orderly way of getting on and off buses.

Jeepneys, on the other hand, are less and less folk art and more and more extremely inefficient ways of shuttling people back and forth. They are home-made vehicles at a time when great advances have been made in public transportation vehicles. Also, there is no regulation and thus, vicious competition. No advantages in safety, comfort, or efficiency, have been offered to the public. FX taxis, which should be the first step to the future, are very succesful, but their success is also built on widely ignoring government regulations (the “colorum” taxis). I’m willing to bet an even improperly maintained FX is still better for the environment and passengers than the average jeepney.

Tricycles on the other hand, are also a problem for suburban residents and urban workers, not least because again, they are virtually unregulated. Like so many things, we have an ad hoc transport system, one which has appeared but which exists not because it makes sense, but due to the fact people are used to it and make do with it to get around.

The construction of the various elevated railway systems has had an impact on traffic and the expectations of commuters. The next step however, has to be to integrate buses, jeepneys (or their replacements), and tricycles into the rail network.

2. Are there any legal justifications for a forced expropriation of public transport companies if they undertake a strike? Or for the mass revocation of public transport franchises? And what does it say about the leaders of these groups that they will wage a strike to ask for the repeal of the law of supply and demand?

3. The strike is in response to hikes in the price of gas. People are also upset because of the price of electricity -yet blackouts are being warned of in a year or two. On the question of energy, including deregulating the energy sector, useful comments and discussions can be found here: Mamutong. Since most people (including myself) find energy deregulation issues difficult to understand, I hope the blogger, Nick Nichols who “Strategy consultant focused on the California and Philippine electricity markets,” will undertake to explain things more thoroughly to non-experts.

Manuel L. Quezon III.

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