THE two-day nationwide transport strike that started Monday hardly affected the areas that the transport coalition planned to paralyze, except in some parts of Central Luzon and Cagayan de Oro City where drivers claimed 90 percent success.
The Samahan ng Tsuper at Operators ng Pilipinas Genuine Organization (Stop and Go) last week said jeepney drivers and operators in about 20 provinces will join the strike to dramatize their protest against the phase out of 15-year-old passenger jeepneys in January next year.
In the Visayas, majority of the commuters in Cebu were not affected by the strike which lasted for only half a day.
Ahmed Cuizon, of the Land Transportation and Franchising Regulatory Board in Central Visayas (LTFRB-7), told The Manila Times that transportation in Cebu and in the entire region was “normal and [the strike]had not affected a specific route in Cebu.”
He said they reserved 20 buses to help stranded passengers in the cities of Lapu-Lapu and Mandaue but these were not used at all.
But, the Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operators Nationwide (Piston) Cebu spokesman Greg Perez said the transport strike was successful.
About 150 driver-members of Piston joined the rally in downtown Colon Street urging the Duterte administration to drop what they call anti-driver policies and laws such as the phasing out of jeepneys, the oil deregulation law and high traffic violation penalties. They were joined by some 50 farmer-members of Lakbayan.
In Negros Occidental the Federation of Bacolod City Drivers Associations, Samahan ng Tsuper at Operators Negros and United Negros Drivers Operators Center did not the join the strike citing the ongoing Masskara Festival in Bacolod City which highlights are scheduled this week.
In Bicol, the Condor Piston-led transport strike failed to cripple the mass transport system as UV Express, buses, other jeepneys and tricycles plied their routes in various destinations across the region.
Similarly, monitoring by the Regional Tactical Operations Center of the Police regional office in Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon) showed only a few drivers participated in the strike.
In Laguna, there was a slight decline in passenger jeepneys plying the Cabuyao City roads, Calauan and Victoria towns but no passengers were stranded.
About 30 drivers plying the San Pablo City to Calamba City route participated in the strike but there were no stranded passengers seen.
In Tanauan City, about 100 jeepney drivers assembled in front of the Ambulong Elementary School and convinced other drivers to stop their trip in support of their position against the PUV modernization program.
In Santo Tomas, Batangas about 60 drivers peacefully assembled along the national highway, while 60 Piston members from Angono, Rizal joined the strike but passengers were not stranded.
In Cavite, about 20 members of Piston plying the Paliparan–Baclaran route tried to convinced other drivers to join the protest.
There was no jeepney strike in Quezon according to Jimmy Bravo, president of Pinag-isang Samahan ng Transport Operators sa Southern Luzon (Pistol) that has almost 1,000 members. He said the strike is not the answer to the jeepney phase out.
Instead, their group is seeking an audience with Quezon Gov. David Suarez to request assistance to upgrade their jeepney engines to be at par with the international standards in transport requirements.
In Bataan, drivers and operators of jeepneys plying the Balanga–Abucay and Balanga–Orani routes held a short program at a corner of the four-lane road in Balanga City and marched briefly back to their terminal. Those with Balanga–Pilar, Orion and Limay routes did not participate.
In Tarlac transport operators and drivers were divided on the nationwide protest.
Mario Estabillo, Tarlac-Guimba (Nueva Ecija) jeepney operators and drivers association president, said the plan to phase out the jeepneys would affect their families’ income the hardest despite the government subsidy offered for modern units. He said government officials should instead focus on colorum vehicles.
The association of transport group in Pangasinan also did not join the strike, as Alliance of United Transport Organization Provincewide president Benny Aquino said Piston’s action is an insult to the government’s initiative in resolving the problems of oil price hikes and their petition to increase fares.
In Bulacan, some 300 members of the urban poor group – Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay) staged a protest action along the provincial road of Barangay Mapulang Lupa in Pandi town bearing placards supporting the transport strike and against extrajudicial killings.
The group blocked the boundary of Pandi-Angat Road for about two hours then peacefully dispersed.
Meanwhile, in Pampanga and Cagayan de Oro transport groups claimed to have paralyzed about 90 percent of the jeepney operations in their areas.
As early as 4 a.m., there were no jeepneys plying San Fernando City and several towns in Pampanga and drivers resumed operations only in the afternoon.
The Solidarity of Transport Alliances in Region 10 (Starex) held “choke points” in various entry points in Cagayan de Oro and gathered at the junction of Lico-an–C.M. Recto Avenue at about 2 p.m on Monday.
Ringo Lago, Starex -Piston Northern Mindanao chairman, said the strike crippled 90 percent of the city’s transportation services at 7 a.m. as the regional Land Transportation Franchise Regulatory Board prepared buses for stranded commuters.
Wildon Barros, of Bayan who represented the labor group, said that the phasing out of the old, reliable passenger jeepneys in favor of the new European transport vehicles would be costly for the middle transport operators.
Malacañang declared a nationwide suspension of classes in all levels in public schools and a non-working day for all government agencies and offices in the country while hundreds of police were deployed to ensure the peaceful conduct of the transport strike.
RHEA RUTH ROSELL, EUGENE Y. ADIONG, RHAYDZ BARCIA, ROSELLE M. AQUINO, BELLY M. OTORDOZ, FROILAN MAGTOTO, FREDERICK SILVERIO, ERNIE B. ESCONDE, JERRY M. HERNANDEZ. JAIME G. AQUINO, ALYSSA JOY CAMERINO AND GABRIELA BARON