Palace warns strikers not to hurt commuters

Published by rudy Date posted on April 12, 2011

Malacañang yesterday reiterated its warnings to militant transport groups anew who are reportedly set to launch mass protest actions today to express their utter dissatisfaction over President Aquino’s P450-million worth fuel subsidy program.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda told the Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide (Piston), the vanguard of the said nationwide transport strike, to just make sure they won’t paralyze traffic and won’t inconvenience the riding public otherwise their protest actions would be declared illegal.

Lacierda said that as usual the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) will be on top of the situation should untoward incidents take place in the areas that will be affected by the transport strike.

“Our position there is that as long as you do not prejudice the riding public, we will respect your right to express your opinion. However, it’s a different story once the riding public gets [unjustly] affected,” Lacierda told reporters at a news conference.

Lacierda restated that the solutions which Piston would like the President to consider, the reduction of the value added tax (VAT) on fuel for instance, are already being studied by the members of the economic team but that they have to bear in mind the consequences of such option to the economy in general over the long run.

“[Our intention to help] doesn’t end with this assistance program for the transport industry. We are continuously studying measures that could help our citizens,” he said.

Lacierda conveyed that, so far, the economic team has not yet submitted its recommendations to the President as regards to the possible reduction of VAT on oil, wage increases to the private sector employees, and the imposition of price control on basic commodities.

He also clarified that the distribution of Smartcards to members of duly-recognized public transport groups will start by next month as explained by Energy Secretary Jose Rene Almendras since the draft of the implementing rules and regulations for the fuel assistance program was just completed recently.

Meanwhile, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Jr. said the government is seriously considering possible price interventions and not exactly price controls with respect to the price situation of goods that fall under basic commodities.

Ochoa told a radio interview that they understand public sentiments should the prices of rice, corn and other staple foods shoot way beyond the price that ordinary citizens could afford.

He said he has already spoken to Trade and Industry Secretary Gregory Domingo last week to discuss his proposal in protecting the public against the rising cost of basic commodities.

“I was proposing to him [Domingo] that the priority, I guess, should be the protection insofar as prices of food commodities is concerned because the people would definitely get mad at us if the prices of the food itself skyrocket. The great majority or the masses is about 80 percent [of our population]. Once they find it difficult to buy food because of its price increase, we would have difficulty as well to manage [the situation],” Ochoa said.

“So, the strategy right now is that Secretary Domingo and the others are studying how we can somehow intervene, not necessarily control prices, but the interventions that we must do just to keep the prices of food commodities [low and affordable to the masses],” he added.

Ochoa also mentioned that he has already involved National Food Authority administrator Angelito Banayo in this particular proposal and asked recommendations from him to determine just how the government can possibly go about it. –Aytch S. de la Cruz, Daily Tribune

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