GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/19 September) – Public transportation in this city grounded to a halt on Monday as majority of the area’s tricycle and jeepney operators and drivers took the day off to join the nationwide strike against the rising fuel prices.
Roy Sande, regional coordinator of the militant Pinag-isang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide (Piston), told reporters that around 95 percent of the city’s 6,000 tricycles and public utility jeepneys have joined Monday’s transport strike and protest actions in the area.
“We consider this as a major success as it only showed that we’re all united here with our calls to the national government for the immediate implementation of control measures to address the continuing rise of fuel prices in the country,” he said in Filipino.
As early as 4am, hundreds of striking transport operators and drivers led by members of the Transport Integrated for Restructuring of Economic Services (Tires)-Piston gathered in six “choke points” in the city.
The choke points, which served as the mass-up area for the protesters, were located in the four entry and exit points of the city and in two major sections of the city’s downtown area.
The protesters were also joined by members of local multisectoral groups allied with the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan).
Sande said the transport strike was felt heavily during the morning rush hour, forcing some students as well as private and government workers to hike to their schools and offices, respectively.
“At around 9am, most of the city’s major streets were already deserted,” he said.
The protesters initially stopped some private vehicles that tried to pass through the choke points but later allowed them to move on after “discussing with the drivers their reasons for launching the strike,” Sande said.
However, a brief tension ensued at a choke point along the Jose Catolico Avenue in the city’s downtown area after the protesters flagged down several tricycles and jeepneys and forced their passengers to come out.
The situation was later resolved when the city police office dispatched a team of policemen and traffic personnel to the scene.
Ryan Lariba, secretary-general of Bayan-Socsksargen Chapter, said they consider Monday’s transport strike and protest actions in the city as a huge success.
“We we’re able to raise the awareness among local residents about the plight of the public transportation sector amidst the rising oil prices and the need to mount a more unified campaign to compel the national government to address their situation,” he said.
Lariba reiterated their calls for an immediate “big time rollback” of the fuel prices, which were supposedly overpriced by P9 per liter.
He called for the scrapping of the Oil Deregulation Law and the 12-percent value-added tax on oil products, which reportedly raised fuel prices by P8 per liter. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)