Transport strike today to paralyze 95% of Bikol - protesters

LEGAZPI CITY (Aug 31, 2011) - Local organizers of a nationwide transport strike slated today predict 95 percent of the Bicol region shall be paralyzed by their protest action.

Public utility vehicles are expected to stop plying the streets of Bikol for 24 hours starting midnight last night up to midnight tonight.

Tessa Lopez, spokesperson of BAYAN-Bikol that is sympathetic to the protesters said almost 100 percent of jeepney drivers and operators from Albay, Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte, Catanduanes, Sorsogon and Masbate have declared support for a 24-hour work stoppage.

Lopez reiterates that this one day strike is a nationwide undertaking that has the solid support oftransport associations in other provinces who are one with them in pushing the Aquino administraton to act on their demand for an immediate big rollback in fuel prices by companies like Petron, Caltex and Shell.

The protesters claim the price of fuel is overpriced by at least 9 pesos per liter.

In additon, they push for the scrapping of the 12 percent VAT on oil products and the immediate repeal of the Oil Deregulation Law.

Condor-Piston a national association of jeepney drivers led in Bikol by its president Noli Tirado, is the prime organizer of today's transport strike.

The tricycle drivers in Naga City, however, are not as keen as the jeepney drivers in skipping work today.

Raffy Duque, manager of Pinag Isang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator ng Trimobile sa Naga (PISSTON) slams Tirado for the latter's unilateral act of setting the date of the protest action without adequate consultation with the tricycle drivers and other stakeholders.

Calling Tirado a dictator, Duque questions the timing of the strike that comes after a long weekend, the past two days being non-working holidays. Three days of survival income are too much to bear for their families, Duque said.

Duque, however, said he and his group are supportive of the objectives of Condor-Piston. Specifically, Duque is one with the strikers in pressuring congressmen and senators to hasten the repeal of the Oil Deregulation Law, which he sees as the only solution that will alleviate the plight of the transport sector in the face of spiraling fuel prices. (With report from Noriel Oya)