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Monday, July 15, 2024

‘Libreng Sakay’ cushions impact of Manibela-led transport strike

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BUS and jeepney drivers and operators launched their three-day transport strike a few hours before the second State of the Nation Address by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., but offers of free rides cushioned the impact of the protest action.

Meanwhile, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said it would deploy 17 vehicles to help convey passengers affected by the ongoing transport strike.

The strikers, mostly members of the Malayang Alyansa ng Bus Employees at Laborers (Manibela), kicked off their protest action with a motorcade rally at the University of the Philippines in Diliman and along Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City, brandishing banners that read, “No to PUV phaseout”.

LIBRENG SAKAY. The Malabon City Government provides free rides for stranded commuters to partly negate the impact of a 72-hour transport strike by some 40,000 public utility vehicles.  

The projected Monday-to-Wednesday transport strike was meant to express their grievances regarding the government’s planned phaseout of traditional jeepneys and utility vehicle (UV) Express, to be replaced by vehicles with environment-friendly fuels.

The drivers and operators claimed that the high costs of the modernization program will definitely become a burden to commuters.
Other participants in the protest action came from Southern Tagalog and Central Luzon regions.

But according to the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, traffic in all major thoroughfares in the National Capital Region remained normal as of 12 noon.

The MMDA’s Metrobase monitors through closed circuit television (CCTVs) cameras major roads in Metro Manila that will be affected by the transport strike for quick dispatching of “Libreng Sakay” vehicles.

MMDA chairman Romando Artes said MMDA traffic enforcers with the assistance from the local police were also managing the traffic flow and crowd control where the transport groups were holding protest.

“Their deployment is to ensure that the situation on the streets of Metro Manila is in order, particularly in the areas affected by the protest rally and address the needs of passengers,” he said.

The MMDA suspended the number coding scheme in Metro Manila on Monday.

Local government units in Manila and southern part of Metro Manila offered free rides to help passengers affected by the rally.

More than 40 vehicles were deployed in Manila to offer free rides while drivers and operators were oriented by the local government of Parañaque City in preparation for the three-day transport strike.

Buses and service vehicles will also be deployed in Pasig City. The LGU is also in close coordination with the MMDA about the routes that will be affected by the strike.

In Taguig City, Mayor Laarni Cayetano ordered the deployment of vehicles to provide free rides along Sta. Ana Plaza – San Joaquin route.
“The city government is also prepared to provide free rides elsewhere if necessary,” the mayor said.

The Taguig government also set up command centers and assistance desks in Bagumbayan, Lower Bicutan, Cayetano Boulevard, Sta. Ana, Napindan and Ususan, all in the 1st District; and DOST, Tenement, Waterfun, Diego Silang, Gate 3 Terminal, and Arca South Common Terminal in the 2nd District.

Manibela believes that the current situation can be seen as an offensive launched by the government against PUV transport workers and commuters. This is especially concerning as it is happening amidst the most severe inflation crisis in over a decade, the group said.

“In support to the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), the AFP will provide 17 military trucks, buses, and coasters from the AFP Major Services and AFP Logistics Command to assist commuters who may be affected by the transport strike on July 24 and the following days,” AFP spokesman Col. Medel Aguilar said in a statement.

Aguilar said the move was part of the AFP’s efforts to help ensure the peaceful and orderly conduct of the President’s SONA.

He said these vehicles for the “Libreng Sakay” program will be under the operational control of the Joint Task Force-National Capital Region.

“They are in their respective headquarters until they are given service routes determined by the DOTr and the MMDA. The military vehicles will be deployed when called upon by the Interagency Coordinating Center,” he added.

Memorandum Circular (MC) 25, signed by Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin on July 21, declared the suspension of classes and work in government offices in the National Capital Region for Monday in anticipation of Typhoon Egay and the 72-hour transport strike.

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