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Providing reliable public transportation

I understand that the long-term solution to the traffic problem in Metro Manila is providing our commuters with a reliable public transport system, including an extensive railway and subway system.

Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go

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During the holiday break, there have been numerous tweets and posts circulating on social media linking me to the ride-hailing motorcycle taxi company app, JoyRide. The most malicious of them even purported that I hold a stake in the company.

Of course, none of that is true. No less than JoyRide Vice President for Corporate Affairs Noli Eala himself debunked this fake news on social media. So to put this issue to close, let me reiterate once more that I am not a member of JoyRide nor have I been part of JoyRide.

I will never exploit the trust of the Filipino people for my own interest or, worse, try to profit from them. I am — first and foremost — a public servant, not a businessman. I aspire to do nothing but serve the interest of Filipinos, not businesses.

To the perpetrators of this fake news, I would like to repeat what I said during a Senate committee hearing: I will not let this go. I will keep you busy. Be warned of the Golden Rule: Don’t do unto others what you don’t want done unto you. I hope karma will not hit you as hard as a speeding vehicle will.

As a neophyte politician, I have been warned about how dirty politics can be. This kind of demolition job is one of the many reasons why I lament the status of politics in the country. But I will not stoop down to their level. Instead, I will focus on giving our countrymen, especially the masses, the quality service they deserve.

Speaking of which, the Senate recently heard the issues and concerns surrounding the Transport Network Vehicle Service or TNVS company, Grab, and motorcycle ridesharing app, Angkas. During the hearing, my fellow lawmakers and I acknowledged the many benefits that these companies render to the public.

Having said that, we still cannot overlook the issues that have hounded their operations in recent months. Public interest and safety should be our utmost consideration. For one, motorcycle taxis such as Angkas are not allowed to be used for public transport under existing laws. An amendment to Republic Act (RA) 4136 is needed to allow motorcycles to be used as public transport.

But some people would argue: why not just force them to halt their operations? This may sound like an easy fix to this problem, but the truth is that the situation is more complex than that.

Currently, companies such as Angkas and JoyRide employ thousands of Filipino riders, some of them have even come to Metro Manila from other provinces to earn a living. Forcing these two companies to close will leave these people jobless and without a source of income to support their families. We will also deprive our commuters with an alternative transport option as we wait for the completion of projects that will ease traffic in the metropolis.

As a senator, my job includes listening to the concerns of all stakeholders when crafting legislation. I cannot simply resort to an either-or solution. Instead, I have proposed to explore a middle ground on these issues.

It is for this reason that, in the meantime, I recommended the extension of the pilot program for motorcycle taxis to President Rodrigo Duterte and Department of Transportation (DoTr) Secretary Art Tugade. As long as said motorcycle taxis abide by traffic rules and care for the safety of the passengers, the riders will get to keep their jobs. I will also support efforts to amend RA 4136 and include motorcycles as an alternative for public transport because I recognize the benefits they provide to the commuting public.

Ultimately, I understand that the long-term solution to the traffic problem in Metro Manila is providing our commuters with a reliable public transport system, including an extensive railway and subway system which will transport them safely and swiftly from point A to point B. An even longer-term goal is to decongest the metropolis by spreading development to other regions.

The good news is that the Duterte administration’s “Build, Build, Build” program is presently undertaking this endeavor. And I am optimistic that, as these projects near completion, our commuters will have more transportation options to choose from and they will no longer be held hostage by limited choices.

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Soon, the National Kidney and Transplant Institute (NKTI) will offer affordable liver transplants to Filipinos suffering from liver diseases after President Rodrigo Duterte, based on the recommendations of yours truly, stressed the need to capacitate the institution to perform these specialized surgical operations.

The NKTI has expressed its support for this endeavor. In a position paper, NKTI Executive Director Rose Marie O. Rosete-Liquete affirms that the hospital, “being the lead government agency for organ transplantation, is now ready, with the help of the Office of the President, to provide accessible liver transplantation to the Filipino people.”

Currently, a liver transplant in the Philippines is at least three times more expensive than the P1.2 million it would cost in India, prompting Filipino pediatric patients to travel abroad for liver transplants. This cost is expected to go down once NKTI has the sufficient number of specialists and the necessary equipment and facilities for the procedure.

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