By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA — The impending transport strike was not discussed in the recent dialogue with President Aquino, but San Mateo said Aquino has “diplomatically” threatened them against pushing through with the strike, as the president reiterated the LTFRB’s “reminder” to drivers that they are franchise holders with responsibility to ply their routes. The LTFRB has earlier warned the drivers who would participate in the strike that their franchises may be revoked.
After Piston and other regional transport groups declared that the transport strike is on, Malacañang told these transport groups’ members not to participate. Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda threatened the transport groups with revocation of their franchises.
San Mateo estimated that the Sept 19 transport strike would cover some 70-percent of Metro Manila, based on the scope of the leaders of transport groups who attended the press conference. He said reports are still coming in about participants in other regions. But so far, San Mateo said transport groups in Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon), Socsargen, Caraga, Cagayan de Oro, and Butuan have declared that they will join the transport strike. In Visayas, there would be rallies in Bacolod, Iloilo, and Cebu City, said Piston.
Joining Piston in the strike are the new federation of Proton, which has 25 local associations, Luzviminda, a nationwide alliance of drivers and operators of multicab, jeepney and FX/AUV, Starter and Sparkplug from Southern Tagalog. Also present in the press conference were local leaders of Piston chapters in Metro Manila, and allied leaders from independent drivers associations in Makati and Pasay.
Modesto Floranda, president of Piston in Metro Manila, said all the locals of Piston in the National Capital Region will take part in Sept 19 strike. He urged the public to support the strike, to join the mass-up centers or to refrain from gassing up on that day, because the frequent, unexplained price hikes and the VAT on oil and toll fees “will victimize all of us.”
Floranda urged the public and other drivers and operators to join them in the mass up centers in Cubao, Monumento, Novaliches, Kalayaan, Alabang, Zapote, near the Manila Hotel in Manila, and in secondary routes in Navotas, Sta. Cruz, Pasig and Angono, Rizal.
Strike for the peoples’ welfare, too
Asked whether they are “concerned” about the riding public who would likely be inconvenienced, Floranda and San Mateo said their notice of strike is not just for courting the public’s understanding and support, but also their way of demonstrating their concern to those who may be adversely affected by it. “This notice of strike is to help them adjust their plans early on,” said the transport leaders.
The transport leaders appealed to the public for support, saying the strike is not a “whim” and neither is it easy for them. It is actually a sacrifice for the drivers, who would have to work longer to make up for lost earnings in preparation for the strike,” said San Mateo.
Asked if strikes do any good at all, the transport leaders replied that “strikes do wonders.” In fact, they said previous strikes had brought immediate relief to the drivers and the riding public, in the form of a price rollback, for example. “It is a very potent weapon,” said San Mateo, adding that even Malacañang’s “sudden effort” to call the transport leaders for a dialogue is a testament to the power of a strike.
“It is not true that the oil companies will not be hurt by a transport strike,” San Mateo said, explaining that strikes should not be evaluated in terms of “paralyzing public transport,” but in reducing the income on that day of the oil companies. The term “paralysis,” he said, is being used to paint the strikers in a bad light, when it is the welfare not only of transport but of the riding public as well that they are fighting for.
San Mateo said that even the government’s VAT windfall will decrease as a result of a transport strike.
Piston thus urged the middle class and private motorists to avoid gassing up on Sept 19, “so the Big Three and the government would feel the people’s demand where it hurts them the most – in reduced profits and taxes.”