LA TRINIDAD, Benguet ? Still smarting from losses caused by the pilferage of their cargo in Manila, vegetable truckers are suffering from another blow as victims of armed holdups along highways in Tarlac and Pampanga.
The Benguet Truckers and Traders Association (BTTA), the country?s biggest group of haulers of highland vegetables from the trading post here, said the holdups have become rampant the last two months, causing drivers to fear for their safety.
Agusta Balanoy, BTTA executive secretary, said the robberies have become alarming since even engine parts were being stolen.
?The drivers were held up when they stopped to rest or eat along the highway. The robbers appeared from nowhere and at gunpoint, took their cash and mobile phones,? she said.
In some instances, Balanoy said, the robbers used tricycles to block the path of the trucks, forcing the drivers to slow down and stop.
The BTTA recorded four holdups this summer alone. They happened on April 10 and 30, and May 3 and 7.
The April 30 robbery was committed in Mabalacat, Pampanga where the culprits took P30,000. The other cases happened in Bamban, Paniqui, and Capas towns, all in Tarlac.
Aside from cash and mobile phones, the robbers took engine starters, forcing the trucks to be stranded and delayed in delivering their vegetable cargo.
Balanoy said not all robberies were reported to BTTA.
But she added that the cases were enough to cause traders to have second thoughts on resuming their operations.
She said the crimes threatened to slow down the delivery of fresh vegetables to Metro Manila and other parts of the country since the trucks were members of the government?s ?Food Lane? program.
The program was launched by truckers, vegetable farmers, the Department of Agriculture and the Philippine National Police that exempted vegetable trucks from the truck ban and coding schemes to ensure the fast delivery of vegetables to major distribution points in Metro Manila.