Classes suspended for transport strike

Alexis Romero - The Philippine Star
Classes suspended for transport strike

Work in executive government offices and classes at all levels in both public and private schools nationwide are suspended today for another scheduled transport strike. File

MANILA, Philippines — Work in executive government offices and classes at all levels in both public and private schools nationwide are suspended today for another scheduled transport strike.

The suspension, ordered by Malacañang, covers local government units and state-run firms but not Congress, the judiciary and private companies.

Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said it is up to private employers to decide if they would also suspend work.

Malacañang is also leaving it up to Congress, the Supreme Court, independent bodies and constitutional commissions to make their own declarations.

“We likewise leave it to private employers to make their own decisions,” Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said.

Malacañang ordered the suspension “to minimize public inconvenience arising from the planned nationwide transportation strike,” he said.

He said the announcement was based on Memorandum Circular 28 but Malacañang has not released the document as of yesterday.

On cue, the Supreme Court ordered the suspension of work today in all courts nationwide.

The Department of Foreign Affairs also announced that its Office of Consular Affairs in Parañaque as well as its consular offices nationwide will be closed today due to the strike.

Localized suspensions

Local government units across the country followed the order.

Angeles City Mayor Edgardo Pamintuan has announced the suspension of work and classes in the city.

Albay Gov. Al Franchis Bichara also declared the suspension of work and classes in the province.

Abra Gov. Maria Jocelyn Valera-Bernos, however, declared classes and work will continue in the province, saying the transport strike will not affect the affect the province, following the advice of the provincial police.

In the National Capital Region, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) announced the Unified Vehicle Volume Reduction Program or the number coding scheme would be still implemented.

The MMDA said it would deploy 41 shuttle buses, trucks and other vehicles to assist stranded passengers during the strike.

MMDA spokesperson Celine Pialago said shuttle buses would be deployed in strategic areas in Quezon City, Pasay, Caloocan and Manila.

For its part, the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) would deploy policemen along busy thoroughfares in Metro Manila to maintain peace and order during the strike.

NCRPO chief Director Oscar Albayalde directed the five police district directors to deploy uniformed policemen in areas affected by the strike to prevent protesters from harassing fellow drivers who would continue to ply their routes.

“We would be everywhere to secure the safety of commuters during the transport strike,” Albayalde said.

Traffic policemen under the Police Assistance Desks (PADs) would be deployed along EDSA in Cubao, Quezon City; Valenzuela City, Navotas, Manila, Parañaque City, Muntinlupa City and Marikina City.

Albayalde also ordered the deployment of policemen in bus and jeepney terminals to prevent violence erupting between militant groups and non-striking jeepney drivers.

“We would allow the striking drivers to air their grievances but it must be under the sphere of the rule of law,” Albayalde said.

He said the police districts in Metro Manila should coordinate their efforts with the respective local government units and the MMDA to minimize public inconvenience.

Anti-PUV modernization

Transport groups are against the public utility vehicle modernization program, saying it would lead to the phase-out of jeepneys and would force operators to buy more expensive models.

Pinagkaisahang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (PISTON) national president George San Mateo said the two-day nationwide transport strike starting today is in protest over the government’s plan to phase out passenger jeepneys.

Militant groups are expected to join today’s transport strike.

The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) said today’s transport strike is part of destabilization efforts against the government.

“We are receiving reports that the transport strike (today) led by PISTON will be supported by left-leaning groups. Allegedly, the plot is to destabilize the government. On the part of the government, we will be providing Kalayaan rides and private buses,” LTFRB spokesperson Aileen Lizada said.

The LTFRB had warned earlier that operators joining transport strikes could get their franchises suspended.

Today’s transport strike is the third of the series of actions by PISTON protesting the government’s transport modernization program.

The government wants grassroots operators and drivers to purchase new jeepney units instead of repairing or rehabilitating the old ones. – With Romina Cabrera, Pia Lee-Brago, Edu Punay, Non Alquitran, Cecille Suerte Felipe, Perseus Echeminada, Ding Cervantes, Celso Amo

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