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Jeepney drivers gearing up for Monday strike

Piston urges private cars to join protest
By: - Reporter / @jgamilINQ
/ 07:50 PM September 18, 2011

MANILA, Philippines—Militant transport groups headed by the Pinagkaisang Samahan ng Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (Unified Organization of Drivers and Transport Operators Nationwide), or Piston, are gearing up for a nationwide strike starting 12 a.m. Monday, even as some transport associations have begged off from joining the protest.

Piston said it is expecting around 40,000 jeepneys in Metro Manila to stop plying their routes starting 12 a.m. of September 19 until 5 p.m. on the same day.

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At the “Balitaan sa Tinapayan” media forum in Sampaloc, Manil,a on Sunday, Piston secretary-general George San Mateo urged private vehicles to help their cause by boycotting gas stations on Monday, saying “this is everyone’s fight.”

The strike is meant to dramatize the transport sector’s demands to put an end to the imposition of value-added tax on toll fees and oil products, “overpricing” by the big oil companies’ “cartel” and the Oil Deregulation Law.

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Metropolitan Manila administrator Francis Tolentino said three major groups have backed out of the planned one-day work stoppage by passenger jeepneys, but hundreds of police will be deployed to prevent violence and keep traffic flowing.

Tolentino says close to 300 government vehicles, including army trucks, will be deployed in case commuters need to be ferried. Detention buses will be on hand for possible troublemakers.

Militant groups in South-Central Mindanao vowed to paralyze public transport on Monday by joining the nationwide strike against the continuing rise in fuel prices.

Roy Sande, regional coordinator of Piston, told reporters in General Santos City that thousands of drivers and operators in the city, Sarangani, South Cotabato and Davao del Sur had pledged to take part in the nationwide protest action.

In Davao City, at least three private schools have announced the cancellation of classes on Monday in anticipation of the transport strike.

At Sunday’s Manila media forum, San Mateo sad, “Don’t believe what the government says that these transport strikes only inconvenience us but not them or the big oil companies. The Department of Energy has said that 70 percent of the oil companies’ sales per day comes from diesel. When we [public-utility jeepneys] hold strikes, they lose a large amount of money. If the motorists join us, they will be bankrupt for the day.”

He therefore urged private vehicle drivers to pitch in by refusing to load gasoline that day which, according to San Mateo, would account for at least 20 percent of the oil companies’ sales per day.

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San Mateo said that in Metro Manila alone, PISTON would have “rally centers” in Cubao, Kalayaan Road and Novaliches in Quezon City, Alabang in Muntinlupa City, Monumento in Caloocan City, Baclaran in Pasay City, Sucat in Parañaque City, Manila East Road and Angono in Rizal, Anda Circle in Manila, and even one in Imus, Cavite.

San Mateo added they intend to paralyze public transportation in the southern Tagalog region, northern and southern Mindanao and Caraga.

Protests by sympathetic sectors such as militant labor groups are expected in some areas in Metro Manila, the Visayas region and northern Luzon, according to Mateo.

Protest actions on Panay

Transport groups on Panay Island will hold protest actions on Monday against the continued oil price increases but will not join a transport strike in Manila and other regions.

Edgar Salarda, regional coordinator of the Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (Piston, Unified Organizaiton of Drivers and Transport Operators Nationwide), said on Sunday that Piston and other transport organizations would hold a protest rally at the Plazoletagay, the city’s main intersection, to show their support for the nationwide protest actions.

The protesters, drivers and operators of public jeepneys will hold a noise barrage and blow their horns at 3 p.m. Militant organizations are expected to join the rally with similar actions also set in Roxas City in Capiz and in the capital town of Kalibo in Aklan, according to Salarda.

He said they could not join the transport strike for lack of preparation, saying it would take at least a month to gather support from all sectors to launch a strike.

Transport groups in Panay launched a two-day strike in May also in protest of oil price increases. The strike crippled public transport on the island.

Salarda said they would call for a P9 rollback of prices of petroleum products, claiming fuel prices were overpriced by the same amount.

The transport groups are also demanding the suspension of the collection of the 12 percent value added tax on oil products.

“Removing the taxes on oil products is the least that the government should do to lessen the burden of the high oil prices on the people,” Salarda said.

He said a long-term solution to the continued increase of oil prices would be the repeal of the Oil Deregulation Law (Republic Act 8479), which allowed the giant oil companies to set oil prices without government approval or control.—With Aquiles Z. Zonio, Inquirer Mindanao; and Nestor P. Burgos Jr., Inquirer Visayas; and Associated Press

Originally posted at 06:39 pm | Sunday, September 18, 2011

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TAGS: Consumer issues, oil and gas, Philippines, Piston, price hikes, public transportation, strike, Transport groups, Transport Strike
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