Bicol strike reports transport paralysis
By Mar S. Arguelles LEGAZPI CITY --- Militant transport groups on Monday succeeded in paralyzing commuters in the Albay province as they claimed that 95 percent or 2,755 drivers of local jeepneys, and UV Express drivers joined the nationwide strike, a leader of CONDOR-Piston in Bicol said Tuesday. Ramon Rescovilla, Deputy Secretary General of the Concerned Drivers and Operators (CONDOR-Piston), said that the regionwide transport strike as of 10:00 a.m. Monday crippled thousands of commuters in the provinces of Albay, Camarines Sur, and Camarines Norte” even as they were still waiting for reports by their counterparts in Sorsogon, Masbate and Catanduanes. Rescovilla, in a phone interview, said that the transport strike was felt in the provinces of Albay with 95 percent paralyzed, Camarines Sur- 90 percent and Camarines Norte-100 percent, crippling mostly public and private employees. In Naga City, however, public transportation went on business as usual. Rescovilla in an interview said Condor-Piston Bicol with 12,000 strong members, has mobilized all of its members posting a 90 participation rate in the four Bicol provinces. Setting up mass action centers in capital towns and cities across the region, the transport strike kicked off at 1:00 a.m. Monday and until 12:00 midnight of the same day. At least members of Cadena Bicolandia, a militant multi-sectoral group, were set to hold their own version of “State of the Nation” in six Bicol provinces where they sought for the realization of the Duterte campaign promises, the issues on the War on Drugs, Extra Judicial Killings, Human Rights violations, extension of the Martial Law in Mindanao, and the cancellation of the GRP-NDF peace negotiations. The strikers were demanding for the scrapping of a Land Transportation and Franchising Board (LTFRB) order that seeks to phase out passenger jeeps that are 15 years old and above. Rescovilla said the plan to phase out old jeepneys “would greatly affect our livelihood [because] the LTFRB order would kill the only means of livelihood the drivers have for their families.” School authorities in Albay suspended classes in all levels on Monday. Despite the transport strike, however, private and government offices across the region, including banks, malls and other commercial establishments, were open for business. On the other hand, buses from Bicol to Manila and vice versa were allowed to ply their regular routes unperturbed. Albay Gov. Al Francis Bichara has deployed trucks to ferry stranded passengers from the first District (Tiwi) Third District (Polangui) and the Daraga-Legazpi routes. Bichara also directed that ambulances in all towns and cities must be on standby ready to respond to emergencies in their respective areas. The Philippine National Police (PNP) in Bicol went on full alert and set up police assistance centers to assist stranded commuters and prevent untoward incidents during the strike. No untoward incident took place as of this reporting period.