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Palace: Contingency plans being readied for Thursday's transport strike

Contingency plans are now being readied for the scheduled protest actions by transport groups on March 31 to make sure commuters will not be inconvenienced, Malacañang said Sunday. Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office secretary Ramon Carandang also reiterated that they are not keen to re-regulate the oil industry as demanded by some transport organizations. "[As far as] contingencies for the strike, I’m sure the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority and the local government will do everything to allow them (transport groups) to express their opinion without disrupting the day or the life or the work of other people," Carandang said on government-run dzRB radio. Militant transport groups earlier said they are to mount a nationwide protest against rising fuel prices on March 31. The Pinagkaisang Samahan ng Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide (PISTON) said this may include a transport strike in parts of Pampanga province in Central Luzon and in Mindanao. "Sa March 31 tuloy ang protest natin. Sa Visayas may transport caravan sa Bacolod, Iloilo, Roxas at Cebu. Magkakaroon din ng noise barrage at caravan," PISTON secretary general George San Mateo said in a separate interview on dzBB radio. (We will push through with the protest on March 31. There will be similar transport caravans in Bacolod, Iloilo, Roxas and Cebu cities in the Visayas. There will be a noise barrage too.) He said their allied organizations in Pampanga and Mindanao had also agreed to hold a transport strike on that day. In Manila, San Mateo said at least 200 public utility vehicles and 500 drivers and operators will join a transport caravan to Mendiola Bridge near Malacañang. Expected to join them are militant government employees, teachers and youths, he said. An earlier report by radio dzBB's Allan Gatus said the Manila-based protesters will gather at the Quezon Memorial Circle in Quezon City and proceed to Mendiola Bridge near Malacañang to dramatize their plight. On the other hand, Carandang said the government is not keen on accommodating demands to remove the deregulation on the oil industry and sell fuel at subsidized prices. He said the Philippines cannot afford to subsidize fuel by buying at high world prices and selling at low prices. “Nakita natin ano ang naging resulta ng ganyang klaseng policy, nakita natin sa NFA lumobo ang utang ng Pilipinas ... Pero sa tingin namin iba dapat ang maging solution di pupwersahin mo ibenta nang palugi ang presyo ng krudo. Maghahanap tayo ng ibang solution diyan," he said. (We have seen how a policy of subsidy has incurred so much debt, like in the case of the National Food Authority. There must be other solutions to this and we will look for those solutions.) “There’s not much we can do about fuel prices abroad. Ang presyo ng langis ay determined by world factors abroad, wala tayong masyadong magagawa abroad (There’s not much we can do about fuel prices abroad)," he added. - KBK, GMA News