Groups vow to paralyze public transport in 3 Mindanao provinces

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/29 March) – Transport groups here and in the neighboring provinces of South Cotabato, Sarangani and Davao del Sur vowed to paralyze public transportation in the area on Thursday as they declared to join the national transport strike and protest actions on Thursday against the continuing increases in fuel prices.

Roy Sande, regional coordinator of the militant Pinagkakaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide (Piston), said Tuesday at least 15 major transport organizations based in this city and nearby cities of Koronadal and Digos have signified to join the strike and the planned massive protest rallies.

He said among the groups joining the protests is the 2,000-strong Transport Integrated for Restructuring of Economic Services (Tires-Piston), an umbrella organization of tricycle and jeepney operators and drivers in this city.

Aside from transport group, Sande said the protest actions will be joined by multisectoral groups led by the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) Socsksargen Chapter, Gabriela, Kabataan partylist and other allied organizations.

“We’ve suffered long enough. It’s time for the government and our national leaders to look at the real situation on the ground and make definitive moves to resolve this crisis,” he told reporters.

During the March 31 transport strike and protest actions, Sande said they will renew their calls to the government, especially to President Benigno Simeon Aquino III, to immediately repeal the oil deregulation law and remove the 12-percent value-added tax or VAT on oil products.

The President had shot down earlier calls for the national government to impose control measures for oil prices and the removal of the VAT on oil products, which remains among the top revenue sources for the government.

Larry Villegas, Tires-Piston chairperson, said the transport sector is currently facing the worst crisis in years due to the “never-ending increase” in fuel prices, which already breached the P60-mark per liter in some parts of the area.

Studies made by the group revealed that oil prices, especially diesel and gasoline, already increased nine times since January.

Gasoline prices went up by an average of P7.35 per liter while diesel rates increased by P6.50 per liter, it said.

The group noted that the increase in oil prices resulted in additional expenses of P225 daily for jeepney drivers, P30 per day for tricycle drivers, P75 per day for fishermen using motorized bancas, P31.50 per month for households utilizing kerosene and P147.58 for those using liquefied petroleum gas or LPG.

“The prices of almost all basic commodities in our markets have increased significantly during the past several weeks because of the oil price hikes, which appears not stopping anytime soon,” Villegas said.

Meantime, in Koronadal City, officials of southern and central Mindanao’s biggest bus company Yellow Bus Line Inc. (YBL) declared Tuesday that it will continue with its regular operations during the planned major transport strike on Thursday.

Olimpio Par, YBL operations manager, said they sympathize with the concerns being raised by local transport groups but cited that they could not just turn their backs from the commuting public that relies on their services.

In the previous transport strikes, YBL had continued with their regular operations but were forced to ground their buses in some instances due to the closure of major roads and highways due to the protests.

Par earlier said they had received warnings from the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board to shun from the transport strikes or face the possible revocation of their franchises.

Koronadal City Councilor Floro Calixton, chair of the city council’s committee on transportation, said he is supporting the planned transport strike, which would be joined by majority of the city’s tricycle operators and drivers.

“We need to discuss this (transport strike) first. I’m not personally aware of their plans so I am inhibiting myself from the protest actions,” he said in a radio interview. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)