Caritas Philippines urges ‘just transition’ in public transport modernization

January 9, 2024 - 4:18 PM
Transport Strike_Day2
Jeepney drivers hold a transport strike while commuters wait for available public transportation in Alabang, Muntinlupa on March 6, 2023 (The Philippine STAR/Ernie Penaredondo)

The social action arm of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) is calling for a “just and inclusive approach” to the government’s public transport modernization program.

In a statement released Monday, Caritas Philippines urged the government to consider the well-being of small jeepney operators and drivers while implementing pollution reduction efforts.

Its president, Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo, stressed the organization’s support for modernizing the public transport system but cautioned against leaving thousands of Filipinos behind.

“We welcome the government’s commitment to improve public transportation,” Bagaforo said. “However, we cannot condone a modernization process that disregards the human cost.

“We urge the government to ensure a just transition that protects the livelihoods of jeepney operators and drivers, who are the backbone of our transportation system, while also laying the groundwork for a more efficient, interconnected, and cost-effective mass transport network that benefits all,” he said.

The Kidapawan bishop emphasized the need for fair compensation and livelihood support for displaced drivers, including access to retraining programs and financial assistance.

“These families are not just statistics; they are our neighbors, our brothers and sisters,” he said. “We cannot let them fall through the cracks during this transition.”

The national Caritas also advocated for investment in locally-developed, renewable energy-powered vehicles.

“We have brilliant Filipino engineers and entrepreneurs who are developing innovative solutions for clean transportation,” Bagaforo said. “Let’s support them and create a future where our public transport is not only efficient but also sustainable.”

The organization also emphasized the importance of preserving the country’s heritage and creative spirit amidst modernization.

According to Bagaforo, jeepneys represent much more than a mode of transport; “they embody our rich cultural tapestry.”

“We must find solutions that honor our heritage and showcase Filipino ingenuity, while simultaneously building a future-oriented public transport system that addresses the needs of a growing population,” he said.