Contingency set to mitigate impact of transportation strike

Posted on September 19, 2011

THE GOVERNMENT is prepared to mitigate the impact of a planned transport strike today on commuters, an official said yesterday.

Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said in a radio interview over state-run dzRB that the number coding for Metro Manila has been suspended while the military and police have prepared vehicles to transport commuters.

“The government is ready, [number] coding has been suspended, the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) [will provide] trucks that will help the riding public who may be stranded,” said the Palace aide.

The strike will be led by Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (Piston) despite a dialogue on Thursday with President Benigno S. C. Aquino III and other transport groups.

Striking transport workers have also been cautioned if they violate the terms and conditions of their franchise.

“Appropriate actions will be taken” for those who will violate their franchise, said Mr. Lacierda, indicating that this could come in the form of harassing commuters and drivers who refuse to join the strike.

In a statement at the weekend, the military said the National Capital Region Command in coordination with the National Capital Region Police Office and Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) will provide free rides to affected commuters.

The “Libreng Sakay,” the military said, will provide 27 military trucks and six buses with security on board.

Additional vehicles from other major service commands and the general headquarters are on standby, it added.

Civil disturbance management

Meanwhile, Civil Disturbance Management teams will be put on standby in certain locations to maintain order.

“We will make sure that our efforts, in close coordination with the MMDA, PNP (Philippine National Police) and other concerned government agencies will result in successful, peaceful and secured operations which will minimize the effects of the transport strike to our commuting public,” AFP chief Gen. Eduardo SL. Oban, Jr. was quoted as saying in the statement.

PNP spokesperson and Sr. Supt. Agrimero A. Cruz, Jr., for his part, said some 5,000 police officers will secure major thoroughfares in Metro Manila.

MMDA Chairman Francis N. Tolentino said in a radio interview that “special prosecutors will be deployed” to deal with militants who violate the rights of nonstriking drivers.

The MMDA will also deploy buses in strategic areas to serve as temporary detention centers for troublemakers, he added.

In a related development, Mr. Lacierda admitted that while the dialogue at the Palace resulted in most groups backing down from the strike, others have stuck to their guns.

He debunked claims by Piston Secretary-General George San Mateo that there was “nothing concrete” that came out of last week’s meeting. The Transportation department, for one, is looking into a loan package for the conversion of jeepneys towards using the cheaper liquid petroleum gas instead of diesel. -- A. S. O. Alegado and J. P. D. Poblete