By Reynard Magtoto
LEGAZPI CITY – Drivers, operators and progressive groups in Albay, Camarines Sur and Masbate successfully hold their coordinated transport strike in Bicol region to protest against Public Utility Vehicles (PUV) Modernization Program of the government.
According to Condor-Piston Bicol, the modernization program of the government only intends to phaseout the jeepneys in the country and give way to big companies and private sectors the operation of the transportation.
As of 12:15 noon, Albay has 98% paralyzed road by the strike of jeepneys totally while the main highway of the province with the route Daraga-Legazpi attained 100% paralysis. In Camarines Sur, although Naga City has 85%, the whole province attained 98%. Masbate province has few jeepneys but protesters here abled to paralyzed its road at 80%.
“This was our way on showing and telling the government on how we strongly oppose the jeepney phase-out,” said Ramon Rescovilla, secretary-general of Condor-Piston Bicol.
The transport group has set up mass action centers around the provinces to ensure the success of the strike and to educate the public regarding the reasons of their strike and the possible worse effect of the modernization program.
The group also expressed their discontentment to the regional office of the LTFRB for not giving attention to their grievances.
According to Condor-Piston, they were not even recognized by the Regional Director of LTFRB. “He once said to us that we are not the one who brought him on his position but Duterte that is why he feel so stubborn to us,” said Rescovilla.
“We are expressing our deep dismay and discontentment on the Duterte administration for not giving attention to the transport sector. The continuation of his anti-poor policies only proves his loyalty to the oligarchs and not to the masses,” said Alfredo Mansos of BAYAN-Albay.
Despite the notice of strike and suspension of classes and government works in Albay, there are still plenty of riding public who take the risk pursuing to go on their whereabouts. Many of them got stranded but have saved by the free rides imposed by the provincial government.
In Camarines Sur, commuter Kim Hermosa, said that not all jeepneys are on strike and the strike only bothers commuters like him.
However, Hermosa supports the campaign of the transport group. “I’m not in favor of the phase-out because it will become daily (fixed wage)for the drivers, a great loss for the drivers. There will be no longer conductor. Hard to ride. Those far places maybe can no longer reached by electric (e-jeeps),” he said.
According to Jeepney Driver Jaime Otilla, they opposed the phase-out since they will be deprived with the job. He was among the few who did not joined the strike in Camarines Sur because their association president told them they can work despite the declared strike.
Meanwhile, protesters on strike in Masbate City were harassed by the PNP-Masbate. The police officers are asking for the permit to conduct transport strike while police officer named Abejuela J. confiscated the cellphone of one of the protesters and deleted all the photos taken during their strike.
From Cagba,Masbate City near Gaisano Mall and Star Oil gasoline station as their main mass action center, protesters are forced to transfer in the freedom park of the City.
In Sorsogon City and Camarines Norte, some drivers and operators joined the strike even they did not officially declare that they will be joining the regional coordinated transport strike of Condor-Piston Bicol. (with report from Angel De Mesa/BaretangBikolnon.com)