Transport strike paralyzes key Mindanao cities

In Davao City, organizers claimed 95 percent of public vehicles joined the strike.

Traffic Management Center chief Celso Gempesaw said that as of 3:30 p.m. 85 percent of taxis and public utility jeepneys had stopped plying their routes.

City hall employees were allowed to go home early to prevent them from being stranded, City Administrator Wendel Avisado said.

He added only a few people were transacting business at the city hall and that Mayor Rodrigo Duterte decided to cut short the workday to save on power costs.

Classes in Ateneo de Davao were suspended as many faculty members and students were unable to report. Only those who have private cars came to the school.

Court hearings were also postponed.

“We have anticipated such support from the people of Davao City and we are positive that the strike will be successful especially with the support that has been coming from the drivers themselves,” Jeppie Ramada, secretary general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan)-Southern Mindanao, said.

In Cagayan de Oro, public transport was 85 to 90-percent paralyzed, although private vehicles were still running.

In Iligan, only pedicabs (non-motorized tricycles), the tartanilya (calesa or horse-drawn carts), motorbikes and a few private cars could be seen on the streets. Drivers and civil society groups held a march-rally in the morning.

Meanwhile in Kidapawan City, capital of North Cotabato, the strike paralyzed at least 80 percent of public transport. There are some 2,000 tricycles and 500 public multi-cab, vans and jeeps in the city.

The strike in Kidapawan started 6:30 a.m. and ended 3 p.m. today. A downpour did not prevent the drivers and operators from marching in the streets to drumbeat their issues.

Members of the Federation of the Kidapawan Integrated Tricycle Association (KITA), the biggest group of drivers and operators here, comprised the bulk of the strikers, Bayan provincial spokesperson Bebiano Gabo said.

Gabo, citing studies from a research organization, said that if the transport sector all over the country would not buy any petroleum products even for just an hour, the oil companies would lose about P700 million.

“This is why this protest action has sent a strong signal to big oil companies in the country,” he stressed.

KITA joined the protest action despite the approval last week of an increase in tricycle fare.

KITA president Victorino Carbonell said the fare increase was insignificant because the prices of oil products have increased by almost two pesos since.
“What frustrated us so much is the fact that the fare increases happen only every three to four years, but oil price increases happen almost every week,” he lamented.

Gasoline prices last year increased 18 times and that of liquefied petroleum gas 13 times.  “This year, oil companies have set to add 1 peso per week starting May to July,” Bayan Mindanao said in a statement.

“The increases have cut into the drivers' daily income.  According to Transmission Southern Mindanao, drivers lose more than 200 pesos a day from their income due to the increase.  Tricycle drivers in General Santos lose nearly half of their income as they have to shell out 300 pesos for gasoline per day, in which they end up taking home 80 to 100 pesos for their income,” the statement added.

Bayan said the repeal of the Oil Deregulation Law would be an immediate remedy to the oil price hike. It also called for the scrapping of the 12-percent Reformed Value Added Tax as this would reduce five pesos from the prices of petroleum. (With reports from MindaNews in Davao City, Cagayan de Oro City, Kidapawan City and Iligan City)