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Malacañang on Monday downplayed the strike staged by a militant transport group to protest high fuel prices, saying it affected “very few people." “Very, very few people were stranded in very, very limited areas," said presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda at a press briefing. He, however, refused to categorically say if the strike was a failure or not. “We will just let the day proceed. We will let the respective authorities to declare if it was a failure or success, but we have made sure that the riding public was not prejudiced and I think we have done our job," he said. “We were prepared for the transport strike and our contingency measures are taking effect," Lacierda added. Lacierda said according to Transportation and Communications Secretary Manuel Roxas II, there were no transport strikes in Regions 1, 2, 3, 5, and 7. In Region 4, at least 11 buses were deployed and in Region 10, where 40 percent of the transport workers joined the strike, four buses were fielded but were not used as there were sufficient public utility vehicles on the road.
In key areas in Metro Manila, some 5,000 police officers were deployed to maintain peace and order. Lacierda believed the dialogue between President Benigno Aquino III and the transport groups last week somehow lessen the effect of the strike. “We are certain that the dialogue was a contributory factor to what has not happened today except for George San Mateo of PISTON who already has a preconceived notion of what they intended do," he said. PISTON, or the Pagkakaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide, was the group that staged the strike. Lacierda chided PISTON for choosing to be part of the problem than being part of the solution. “PISTON chose to be part of the problem. We are dismayed. We are prepared to meet them head on with their decision to go on strike," he said. Asked on the possible violation of the law committed by the drivers who joined the strike, Lacierda said let the concerned agencies determine that. He, however, reminded the transport groups that four bus companies were suspended for joining the transport holiday last year. These were Laguna Star Bus, Jay Ross, JRMS and Chiang Bus. The suspension of the franchises was handed down last March. Earlier in the day, Roxas met with some PISTON officials in Cubao, Quezon City. He was supposedly part of President Aquino’s delegation to the US, but he stayed behind to monitor the strike. Lacierda said Roxas will just follow the delegation, which left the country late Sunday night. “That shows the resolve of this government to seriously address the concerns," Lacierda said. “We know what our priorities are." — KBK, GMA News