Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Bicol authorities on full alert to cushion impact of transport strike
By Mar S. Arguelles

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 27 (PNA) -- Government authorities on Monday went on full alert and carried alternative measures to cushion the impact of the region-wide transport strike that caused inconvenience to thousands of people in the three provinces of Bicol, the Office of Civil Defense said today.

Rafael Bernardo Alejandro, OCD Bicol regional director, quoting reports from the Philippine National Police (PNP) Bicol and other emergency response agencies, said at the onset of the strike, emergency teams have been placed on “red alert” and deployed in identified critical areas such as highways to lend assistance to commuters stranded during the transport strike.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) in Bicol has set up police assistance centers in various major highways in the four mainland provinces in the region to assist stranded commuters and prevent untoward incidents during the strike.

Police Chief Ramon Melvin Buenafe, Bicol police regional director said so far, the transport strike was generally peaceful and no untoward incident occurred during the 12-hour strike.

In Albay, Governor Al Francis Bichara deployed engineering trucks to ferry stranded passengers from the first District (Tiwi) Third District (Polangui) and the Daraga-Legazpi routes.

Bichara also directed that ambulance service of all towns and cities be placed on standby.

Meanwhile, militant transport group CONDOR-Piston claimed that the region-wide transport strike was successful in paralyzing thousands of commuters in mainland Bicol.

Ramon Rescovilla, deputy secretary general of the Concerned Drivers and Operators-Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operators Nationwide (CONDOR-Piston) in Bicol said 100 percent of local jeepneys, UV Express drivers plying the routes in the provinces of Albay, Camarines Sur and Camarines Norte joined the strike, resulting in inconvenience to commuters, mostly students and employees.

Rescovilla in an interview said Condor-Piston-Bicol with 12,000 members, has mobilized all of its members, posting an 80-participation rate in the three Bicol provinces.

No transport strike was reported in the provinces of Sorsogon, Catanduanes and Masbate, reports said.

Trimobiles in the cities of Legazpi, Ligao, and Tabaco in Albay roamed the city streets. Commuters complained about the exorbitant fare being demanded by the drivers.

After 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 end at 12:00 midnight.

The strikers were demanding for the scrapping of a Land Transportation and Franchising Board (LTFRB) order that would phase out passenger jeeps that are 15 years old and above.

Rescovilla said the plan to phase out the old jeepneys would greatly affect their livelihood, saying “the LTFRB order would kill the only means of livelihood they have for their families.”

Rescovilla, 48, a native of Daraga town, said a driver earns P400 to P500 a day driving for 8 to 12 hours. “What will happen to our family if this order be implemented?” he asked.

School authorities in Albay suspended classes in all levels on Monday, as a preventive measure that may adversely affect the mobility of the students.

Despite the transport strike, private and government offices across the region were open including banks, malls and other commercial establishments.

Buses plying the Legazpi-Manila and vice-versa route were allowed to do their regular operations. (PNA) LAP/MSA/CBD