Malacanang suspends classes, gov’t work nationwide due to transport strike  

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 15 Oct) — Executive secretary Salvador Medialdea on Sunday announced the suspension of classes in all levels and government work on Monday to “minimize public inconvenience” arising from the planned two-day nationwide transport strike organized by the Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Transport Opereytors Nationwide (PISTON) to protest the planned phase out of old public utility jeepneys.

The private sector, however, is not covered but subject to the discretion of employers.

Traffic at non-peak hours along the national highway in Matina, Davao City. Classes in all levels and government work are suspended on October 16 due to a transport strike to protest the planned phase out of old jeepneys. MindaNews file photo by GG BUENO

In Davao City, Mayor Sara Duterte had, as early as October 13, declared the suspension of classes in all public and private schools in all levels  in the city during the transport strike on Monday.

In a statement on October 13, Duterte said she respects the rights of those who are staging the protest but will deploy buses to assist  passengers who will be affected by the strike.

“Let us all take this opportunity to observe the streets with less jeepneys and more buses as envisioned in the High Priority Bus system project for the Dabawenyos,” she said. She also reminded  the public that crimes committed during the strike will not be tolerated.

“We enjoin the protesters to practice self-restraint in their actions,” she said.

The mayor said the transport strike in the city will be an opportunity to see the viability of the High Priority Bus System (HPBS) project in the city “with fewer jeepneys and more buses” on the streets.

The HPBS is intended to address traffic congestion and the growing need for mass transport system.

In a statement on October 13, the drivers and small operators under Transport in Southern Mindanao for Solidarity, Independence, and Nationalism-Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Transport Opereytors Nationwide (TRANSMISION-PISTON) vowed to join the transport strike.

Under the Omnibus Franchising Guidelines of the Department of Transportation, Ricardo Baron, spokesperson of TRANSMISION-PISTON, said 200,000 jeepneys in the country will be replaced with newly-built jeepneys which are solar or electric-powered and Euro-4 compliant engines, manufactured by big companies such as General Motors and Chrysler.

Under the new guidelines,  jeepney operators will only be issued a franchise if they have a minimum of 10 jeepneys and provide their own terminals while the spare parts will be exclusively purchased from the manufacturers.

The group lamented that the program was designed to “monopolize and corporatize further” the public transport system in the country.

“Majority of the current jeepney operators certainly cannot afford the new jeepneys and as such they will be be displaced. This program of the government tailored to fit the interests of the foreign capitalists under the neoliberal policy that Duterte’s government is toying with,” Baron said.

The transport strike in Davao City will start 4 a.m. and will end at 4 p.m. on  the same day.  (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)