Successful transport strike in S. Tagalog signifies growing protest against PNoy’s SONA

Photo by Jonelle Marin

Regional transport groups and people’s organizations staged a transport strike last Wednesday in different areas in the Southern Tagalog (ST) region to protest against the recent increase in oil price, the twentieth in five months.

The transport strike, led by Southern Tagalog Transport Sector Organization – Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operators Nationwide (STARTER – PISTON) and the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan – Timog Katagalugan (Bayan –TK) started at 7:00 a.m. and lasted for ten hours. The said strike was part of the militant groups’ weeklong protest against President Benigno Aquino III’s upcoming State of the Nation Address (SONA).

According to STARTER-PISTON’s Vice President Alex Balayan, the protest action called for the scrapping of the Oil Deregulation Law which gives power to the Big 3 oil companies Caltex, Shell and Petron.

“Kapag nawala ang Oil Deregulation Law, bababa ang presyo ng petrolyo. At ipinapanawagan din natin na mawala na ang EVAT (Extended Value Added Tax) sa langis dahil P13.00 ang matitipid ng mga drayber pag nagkataon, (Once the Oil Deregulation Law is gone, petroleum prices will go down. We also call for the scrapping of the EVAT in oil which will give drivers P13.00 additional income,) ” Balayan said.

In Crossing, Calamba City, the group started inviting drivers to join the strike at around seven in the morning and was able to halt 70% of public utility vehicles. By 10 a.m.  Meanwhile, transport strike success in several areas in ST ranged from 50% to 99%. (*see related table)

Area Impact of public transportation stoppage
Calamba 95%
Lipa-Calamba 90%
Tanauan 90%
Binan 80%
San Pedro 80%
Sta.Rosa 99%
Los Banos 80%
Tagaytay, Silang, Cavite 95%
Quezon, Tiaong, San Antonio 95%
Padre Garcia 90%
Tanauan 90%
Sto. Tomas 80%
TODA-Sta.Rosa 50%
Tanauan-San Pablo 90%

*courtesy of Bayan-TK

For change

Other than protesting the oil price increase, “genuine change” was among the reasons why Barry Lontos, a jeepney driver, joined the strike.

“Sa performance kasi ni Noynoy parang wala pagbabago. ‘Yun pa rin ang daing ng mga tao, naghihirap [sila]. Sana may pagbabago na para hindi naghihirap [ang tao] (Noynoy’s performance has shown that nothing has changed. The people cry the same problem, that they are still poor. I hope for real change for the people to no longer suffer.)”

Aside from oil price increases, Balayan mentioned continuing extra-judicial killings as a sign of Aquino’s term’s lack of difference from Arroyo’s.

“Walang ipinagkaiba ang termino ni Noynoy kay GMA (Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo). Nariyan pa rin ang pagpatay at pagdukot sa mga aktbista. (Noynoy’s term is similar to that of GMA. Even the abductions and killings are still there)”


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More strikes and protests

According to Bayan-TK Secretary General Leo XL Fuentes, there will be more transport strikes in ST as long as Aquino doesn’t use his executive power to stop oil and other commodities’ price increase.

“Paniguradong may mga susunod pang tigil-pasada sa hanay ng mga tsuper lalo pa’t ang proyekto ni Noynoy na ‘Pantawid Pasada’ ay hindi signipikante, ayon na rin sa karansan ng mga kasama nating drayber (Certainly there will be more transport strikes coming from the ranks of the drivers especially since Noynoy’s project ‘Pantawid Pasada’ has no significant effect according to the drivers themselves),” Fuentes said.

Aside form the transport strike, organizations under the umbrella of Bayan-TK put-up protest camps all over the region as part of the weeklong protest action for the SONA.

Fuentes said that traditionally, the SONA has been used by past presidents to prop-up their supposed achievements while covering up the true state of the Filipinos. “Tiyak na ganito lamang din ang gagawin ni Noynoy sa kanyang ikalawang SONA, kaya naman mahalaga ang paglulunsad ng iba’t ibang anyo ng protesta upang maiparating sa nakararami ang tunay na kalagayan ng masang naghihirap. (Noynoy will certainly do the same in his second SONA, which is why it is important to stage different kinds of protests to show the public the true state of the poor masses).

People’s marches will be held in different provinces in the region starting July 23 and will culminate in simultaneous protest actions on the day of the SONA, coinciding with other rallies all over the country. by Jonelle Marin

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