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MMDA deploys buses to cope with transport protests

Authorities deployed before dawn Thursday the first batch of buses to give free rides to commuters who may be affected by a militant transport groups' caravan to protest fuel price hikes. Metropolitan Manila Development Authority Chairman Francis Tolentino also said MMDA personnel started monitoring at 4 a.m. the situation in thoroughfares likely to be affected by the protest caravan. "Unang ipinakalat ang first batch ng bus para sa Sucat-Baclaran route — mga 5 a.m. Marami tayong mino-monitor na areas. Matagal nang pinaghandaan ito. Mamaya patuloy ang paglalabas ng libreng sakay," Tolentino said in an interview on dzBB radio. He said he and officials of the police and military were already at the MMDA Command Center as early as 4 a.m. Armed Forces of the Philippines Metro Manila command head Brig. Gen. Tristan Kison said they have "contributed" 35 trucks and buses for the "Libreng Sakay" (free ride) effort. Militant transport groups led by the Pinagkaisang Samahan ng Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide (PISTON) organized the transport caravan to protest recent fuel price hikes. Participants were to gather at the Quezon Memorial Circle and proceed to the University of Santo Tomas (UST) area in Manila. From the UST, they are to march to Mendiola Bridge near Malacañang. Tolentino advised motorists and commuters to avoid the Quezon Avenue area and other roads that are part of the route the caravan will take. He particularly advised them to avoid the Welcome Rotonda at the boundary of Manila and Quezon City at 1 p.m. MMDA warns vs 'harang' Tolentino warned transport groups against blocking the path of public utility drivers and motorists who do not wish to join the protest action. He said the Metro Manila police under Director Nicanor Bartolome will be on the lookout against such actions. Earlier, radio dzBB's Manny Vargas reported some drivers in Northern Metro Manila had planned to block the paths of jeeps and buses that are not joining the caravan. "We will not allow that [blocking of roads]. Traffic must be allowed to flow freely. Motorists and public utility drivers who do not want to join must be respected," he said. LRT to help fill gap Despite its recent woes, the Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA) said it is ready to help accommodate commuters affected by Thursday's protest. LRTA spokesman Hernando Cabrera said they have ordered their crew to implement contingency plans and beef up maintenance work. The LRT-1 had been disrupted at least four times this week, including two incidents Wednesday. "Instruction namin sa crew, paigtingin ang maintenance procedure (We just instructed our crews to beef up maintenance work)," Cabrera said in a separate interview on dzBB. — LBG, GMA News