• Transport strike cripples Bicol, Bacolod

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    A federated transport group said thousands of commuters were stranded by the jeepney strike on Monday in three Bicol provinces and Bacolod City in Negros Occidental. But jeepney drivers in some areas in Luzon, particularly the cities of Tarlac, Olongapo and Baguio, did not join the protest action.

    Deputy Secretary General of Concerned Drivers and Operators (Condor-Piston) in Bicol Ramos Rescovilla claimed 98 percent success for the transport strike by local jeepneys and UV Express drivers in the provinces of Albay, Camarines Sur and Camarines Norte.

    The 12,000-strong Condor-Piston Bicol mobilized all its members posting a 95 percent participation rate in the three provinces but transport groups in Sorsogon, Catanduanes and Masbate did not participate.

    Motorized tricycles in the cities of Legazpi, Ligao and Tabaco in Albay and tri-mobile roamed the city streets but commuters complained of the exorbitant fare charged by drivers.

    Despite the transport strike, it was business as usual in private and government offices across the region, including banks, malls and other commercial establishments.

    Bus operations plying the Legazpi-Manila-Legazpi route were allowed to go on their regular run.
    Military and police trucks in Bicol were deployed to provide free rides to stranded passengers.

    The Philippine National Police (PNP) in Bicol went on full alert and set up police assistance centers to help stranded commuters and prevent untoward incidents during the strike.

    Albay Gov. Al Francis Bichara deployed engineering trucks to ferry stranded passengers from Tiwi (First District) to Polangui (Third District) and the Daraga-Legazpi routes.

    Legazpi City Mayor Noel Rosal and Daraga Mayor Gerry Jaucian ordered classes suspended in the elementary and high school levels in both private and public schools.

    Meanwhile, Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) spokesman Aileen Lizada said, “There was no draft order in the DOTr [Department of Transportation] on phasing out jeepneys. The transport groups had misinformed drivers and operators with their bogus claims.”

    She debunked reports that jeepney operators would have to pay P7 million to get a new franchise and must have 20 units by 2018 and increase their fleet to 40 units in 2019.

    Lizada said the modernization program seeks to make PUJs environment-friendly and will have a three-year transition period.

    Peaceful

    Bacolod City police director Senior Supt. Jack Wanky said “60 percent of public transport here joined the strike.”

    Diego Malacad, secretary general of the United Negros Drivers and Operators Center (Undoc), said the transport stoppage was peaceful in spite of reports that some jeepney drivers harassed tricycle drivers in the downtown area.

    “We will have it investigated as we do not tolerate violence. We should focus on educating our drivers,” he added.

    Bacolod Mayor Evelio Leonardia suspended classes in all public schools including the city government-run Bacolod City College.

    All private universities and colleges in the city also announced the suspension of classes as early as Saturday in anticipation of the transport strike.

    The city government deployed two tourist buses and 12 trucks to provide free rides to the public. Buses and trucks were made available from the barangay (village) proper to Bacolod public plaza, from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

    Aside from Undoc, the Federation of Bacolod City Drivers Associations, Sentrong Samahan ng Tsuper at Operators Negros, Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator, Kilusang Mayo Uno and the Social Action Center joined the transport strike.

    Drivers and operators camped out in five areas around the city.

    Transport giant Vallacar Transit Corp. that owns Ceres Bus plying all routes in Negros island, including Panay and Cebu, did not join the strike.

    Measures cushion effect

    LTFRB Region 7 Director Ahmed Cuizon said they implemented measures to prevent the transport strike in Metro Cebu so that it affected only 20 percent of public transportation in the cities of Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu and 10 percent in Cebu City.

    LTFRB 7 assigned at least 30 public utility buses in the three cities to ferry stranded passengers in addition to buses the local governments deployed.

    Dialogue over strike

    Transport operators and jeepney drivers in Olongapo City, Zambales as well as those in the cities of Tarlac and Baguio did not join the nationwide strike, saying they prefer to dialogue rather than go on strike in resolving the planned jeepney phaseout.

    Rey Abrenilla, chairman of Olongapo-Zambales-Bataan Transport Federation, said the issue on the phaseout of old and outmoded public utility vehicles can be resolved with a series of talks.

    The province of Zambales and Olongapo City Vice Mayor Aquilino Cortez Jr., now acting mayor, did not order the suspension of classes since jeepney drivers announced earlier that they were not joining the nationwide strike.

    Cortez said that as an alternative to the old vehicles, the proposal of a Taiwanese and Japanese firm to develop and introduce the electric jeepney should be reviewed.

    “The cost difference of a regular jeepney and an e-jeepney is still an issue but further research can be done to make the price of acquiring an e-jeepney almost the same as that of a regular jeepney,” he added.

    Cortez said a regular jeepney costs about P700,000-P800,000 while an e-jeepney is about P1 million.

    WITH MANNY T. UGALDE, EUGENE Y. ADIONG, PATRICK ROXAS, JERRY T. HERNANDEZ, THOM F. PICAÑA AND PNA

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