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Transport strike to push through despite govt warning

Around 5,000 jeepney drivers from the Pinagkaisang Samahan ng Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (PISTON) will push through with their planned nationwide strike on Monday despite warning from Malacañang that they may face sanctions on their franchises if they violate the law or harass anyone into joining the protest action. PISTON secretary-general George San Mateo said his group will go on strike to urge the government to address the supposed “overpricing" of local petroleum products. “Ipinaglalaban natin dito ang pagbasura sa Oil Deregulation Law, pag-imbestiga sa overpricing at paghingi ng P9 big time rollback," he said at a press conference Sunday. In Malacañang, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and other appropriate agencies will investigate possible violations during the transport holiday. “We’ve already said it time and again, you (operators, drivers) have obligations and responsibilities. Being franchise holders is a privilege and not a right, and, therefore, if you violate the terms and conditions of your franchise, appropriate actions will be taken," he warned. He said government officials will oversee the condition of the transport strike. Affected routes The nationwide transport strike, which will start Sunday midnight and will last until 5 p.m. Monday, is expected to affect commuters passing through McArthur Highway in Valenzuela, and Commonwealth and Quezon avenues in Quezon City, according to a GMA News Research study, noting the number of passenger vehicles passing through these thoroughfares everyday. [Watch "24 Oras" report below.]

The MMDA, on its Twitter account, identified four more Metro Manila routes as areas likely to be affected the most by the transport strike. They are:
  • Sucat-Baclaran (southern Metro Manila)
  • Karuhatan Valenzuela (northern Metro Manila)
  • Sta Mesa-Aurora Cubao (Manila and Quezon City)
  • Alabang (southern Metro Manila) Despite the strike, the Department of Education, however, said that classes will not be suspended. The department has supervision over the preschool, elementary and high school levels. Contingency measures MMDA chief Francis Tolentino, for his part, said that contingency measures are in place for passengers who will be affected by the transport strike. He said the MMDA will deploy buses around Metro Manila to provide free rides to stranded passengers. “Marami rin pong jeepneys na hindi kasali sa strike na tutulong para mapunan ‘yung mawawala na jeeps," he said in a television interview. He said special prosecutors and prison buses will be deployed all over Metro Manila to deal with strike organizers who will coerce other drivers into joining their activity. The Armed Forces of the Philippines will also deploy 29 military trucks and six buses to give free rides for passengers. The Philippine National Police will likewise field 5,000 cops to ensure peace and security during the strike. ‘Victim-bashing’ Meanwhile, Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Teodoro Casiño accused the Aquino administration of “victim bashing" by supposedly trying to “harass" PISTON into abandoning its plan for a nationwide strike. “All PISTON is trying to do is protest increases in the most effective way they know how, and that is through a strike," he said in a statement Sunday. The lawmaker likewise said that instead of “threatening" the transport group, Palace officials should find ways to “punish" Chevron, Shell and Petron—the three largest oil companies in the country—for the supposed overpricing on their products. “What the Aquino administration should do is to punish the Big 3 and scrap the oil deregulation law, but it seems that it is the one protecting such interests and attacking those who side with consumers," he said. He also reminded the Aquino government of its duty to protect consumers from the supposedly “unscrupulous" moves of local oil companies. - KBK, GMA News