Transport strike fizzles out; 1-month subsidy OK’d

Published by rudy Date posted on April 1, 2011

MANILA, Philippines – The “transport caravan” staged by militant transport groups yesterday failed to cripple public transportation in Metro Manila, according to the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA).

“Their purpose might have been just to ventilate their grievances. But it seems they have failed to muster enough support. The other large transport groups did not participate. It fizzled out,” MMDA chairman Francis Tolentino said.

The MMDA said only 39 jeepneys, four private vehicles and 29 AUVs or “FX” tax is joined the protest caravan. The MMDA also placed the number of protestors at just about 500.

Yesterday’s transport strike led by Pagkakaisa ng Samahan ng Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide (Piston) had been successful in partially paralyzing public transportation in some areas in Mindanao, particularly in Davao City and the Caraga region, but not in Metro Manila.

The militant groups led the transport caravan through Quezon Avenue from the Quezon Memorial Circle in Quezon City, stopping at the Welcome Rotonda at the boundary of Manila and Quezon City, and to the Chino Roces Bridge (formerly Mendiola bridge) near Malacañang where the protestors staged a rally.

The MMDA said the transport caravan also failed to paralyze public transport along Quezon Avenue.

“There was no effect on traffic. It was moving. There was no effect on motorists,” Tolentino said.

The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) and the police National Capital Regional Police Office (NCRPO) also cited the protest rally had been peaceful and orderly.

Piston earlier declared that at least 200 jeepneys would join the transport caravan to protest the recent oil price hikes.

But the MMDA said the number of protestors that participated in the strike were too negligible to adversely affect public transport in the National Capital Region.

Even as Piston and other militant groups led the transport strike yesterday, President Aquino announced his approval of a one-month fuel subsidy for passenger jeepneys and tricycles to help the public transport sector weather the impact of oil price increases.

Aquino made the announcement during an event of the Atlantic, Gulf and Pacific (AG&P) in Batangas.

He said all jeepney and tricycle franchise holders of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) would be the beneficiary on the one-month fuel subsidy.

Buses, on the other hand, are not covered by the subsidy because of the recent fare increase granted to bus operators.

Aquino said the state-owned Land Bank of the Philippines would issue daily “smart cards” or fuel subsidy cards to jeepney and tricycle drivers after the LTFRB completes an inventory of franchise holders as beneficiaries.

Under the program, franchise holders registered with the LTFRB would be given a fuel discount of P3 per liter for a month, beginning the second week of April.          

Legitimate franchise holders will receive fuel cards valued at P1,500 each. The entire program is expected to cost P600 million.               

“We have allocated an initial P500 million to assist all of these PUVs, and the (fuel) subsidy will be dependent on the prices of crude oil in the market. And these funds will be sourced from our increased revenues and savings,” he said.

Presidential Communications Group Secretary Ricky Carandang said the Department of Energy had discussed the recommendations for fuel subsidy.

Energy Undersecretary Jose Layug Jr. confirmed the DOE’s Inter-agency Energy Contingency Committee has drafted an executive order last week that was discussed but has not yet been finalized.                   

Funding for the program could be sourced from the President’s contingency fund, or a windfall from value added tax (VAT) collections on oil.

Limited impact

Militant groups led by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), however, said the oil subsidy scheme is not enough to mitigate the weekly oil price increases.

“There are bigger benefits and more beneficiaries will not be just the drivers but also households, fisher folk and many others,” Bayan said in a statement.

Rep. Teddy Casiño of the party-list group Bayan Muna also said the fuel discount to transport groups would have a limited impact because only one sector would benefit.

“High oil prices affect not only the transport sector but (also) everyone – housewives, power consumers, manufacturers, farmers, fishermen, and motorists. The Malacañang-approved discount is not enough,” he said.

Casiño said the better way of cushioning the impact of high oil prices on the public in general is for the President to suspend the collection of the 12-percent value added tax on petroleum products.

“VAT suspension will benefit not just one sector but all,” he said.

Casiño said the Aquino administration could afford to temporarily forgo VAT collections. – With Delon Porcalla, Jess Diaz, Rhodina Villanueva, Reinir Padua, Donnabelle Gatdula, Rainier Allan Ronda, Danny Dangcalan, Ben Serrano, Mike Frialde (The Philippine Star)

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