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Classes suspended for transport strike

Classes are suspended today from pre-school to high school in Metro Manila and at all levels in several universities and cities across the country as authorities brace for a transport strike.

MANILA, Philippines -  Classes are suspended today from pre-school to high school in Metro Manila and at all levels in several universities and cities across the country as authorities brace for a transport strike.

The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) has put in place contingency measures to mitigate the effects of the strike against proposals to phase out aging jeepneys.

LTFRB spokesperson Aileen Lizada said 51 government vehicles are on standby and ready to help commuters who will be stranded by the transport strike.

Around 100 buses guarded by about 200 policemen will also be deployed along major routes in Metro Manila.

Transport groups in the Visayas and Mindanao will join the strike, with local officials expecting commuters and students to be stranded.

Malacañang announced last night the suspension of classes from pre-school to high school in Metro Manila.

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Local officials in Bacolod, Iloilo and Legazpi City in Albay ordered the suspension of classes at all levels.

Officials of Talisay City and Mandaue City in Cebu province also ordered the suspension of classes at all levels.

In the National Capital Region, the Makati City government has announced the suspension of classes today at all levels.

The University of Santo Tomas in Manila yesterday announced today’s class suspension for today on its Facebook page.

De La Salle University, which has several campuses in Metro Manila, also announced the suspension of classes in all levels today. DLSU’s College of Saint Benilde also announced the suspension of classes.

Other schools that announced the suspension of classes in all levels include Adamson University, Guadalupe Catholic School, Far Eastern University, Lyceum of the Philippines University, Colegio de San Juan de Letran and the University of the Philippines in Manila.

The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) has identified the critical routes that would be affected by the strike.

The National Capital Regional Police Office (NCRPO) will put up police assistance desks (PADs) along EDSA, Monumento Circle in Caloocan City; Commonwealth Avenue, Cubao and Quezon Avenue in Quezon City; in Parañaque City and Muntinlupa, all of which are identified by officials as critical routes.

The MMDA has lifted the number coding scheme for public utility vehicles and together with the NCRPO will deploy additional trucks and buses to help stranded commuters.

“We will be fielding trucks and buses in the streets as early as 6 a.m. to help passengers reach their destinations,” NCRPO chief Director Oscar Albayalde said.

The Quezon City Police District (QCPD) will deploy 800 policemen in critical areas in the city – Muñoz, Balintawak, Commonwealth-Litex, Commonwealth-IBP Road, Philcoa, Quezon Avenue-Centris, Welcome Rotonda, Tandang Sora-Commonwealth, Quirino Highway-Zabarte Road, Santolan-Crame, Aurora Boulevard-Annapolis and Timog-Tomas Morato.

QCPD director Chief Supt. Guillermo Lorenzo Eleazar said they will secure jeepney drivers who will not join the strike from being harassed by others who will force them to join the protest.

“We have coordinated with the transport groups who will not join the strike,” Eleazar said.

Today’s transport strike is the second of a series of protests staged by the group Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operators Nationwide (PISTON), the Stop and Go Coalition, the No to Jeepney Phase Out Coalition and other supporting transport groups.

PISTON president George San Mateo said today’s strike is in protest to the government’s planned phaseout of old jeepneys, and the new requirement of P7 million minimum capital for jeepney operators and a minimum of 10 units for each franchise.

PISTON said its members in Metro Manila and allies in several provinces already confirmed their participation in the strike that would start at 6 a.m. Monday.

Among them is the United Negros Drivers and Operators Center in Bacolod City and the PISTON chapter based in Cagayan de Oro City.

The transport groups in Metro Manila will convene at Monumento Circle in Caloocan City at 6 a.m., and at other “protest centers,” PISTON said.

Other groups will gather at the Quezon City Memorial Circle around 11 a.m. before marching to Mendiola in Manila.

A similar transport strike staged earlier in February by the same transport groups caused hundreds of passengers to be stranded, and prompted some schools to cancel classes.

Lizada yesterday warned of the consequences for jeepney drivers and operators who will join the strike.

“You have been given a fair warning. You better show up or you face the consequences why you are protesting and objecting to the government policy of modernization,” she said.

Lizada explained holding a transport strike is a violation of the provisions of LTFRB memorandum circular that warns public transport operators and drivers from suspending operations as a sign of protest.

“Resorting to such an activity could result in the suspension of cancellation of their franchises,” Lizada warned.

Lizada maintained the government is pursuing modernization of the public transport system, not the supposed phaseout of passenger jeepneys.

“If the jeeps will be gone, I will resign,” she remarked. –Non Alquitran, Perseus Echeminada, Rainier Allan Ronda, Gerry Lee-Gorit, Gilbert Bayoran, Cet Dematera

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