Seven major transport groups will not join the planned nationwide strike on Monday, Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Benjamin Abalos Jr. assured on Sunday. Abalos said leaders of the transport groups dubbed 'Magnificent 7' vowed continued operations and will not take part in the nationwide protest initiated by Manibela (Malayang Alyansa ng Bus Employees at Laborers Para sa Karapatan sa Paggawa) during their meeting at a restaurant in Quezon City. 'With this group, I'm very very sure there will be no paralysis of traffic,' Abalos said, referring to Pasang Masda, Alliance of Transport Operators and Drivers Association of the Philippines (Altodap), Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide (Piston), Alliance of Concerned Transport Organizations (ACTO), Federation of Jeepney Operators and Drivers Association of the Philippines (Fejodap), Stop and Go Transport Coalition, and Liga ng Transportasyon at Operators sa Pilipinas (LTOP). He said 95 percent of the members of the seven groups nationwide have committed not to join the mass action. 'Sa kaalaman ng lahat, 95 percent ng transport groups. Ito'y iba-ibang sangay. Hindi sila kasama sa strike bukas [Monday] (For everyone's information, 95 percent of the transport groups. These are different chapters. They won't join the strike tomorrow),' Abalos said in a press briefing. Nevertheless, the DILG chief said personnel of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) will be deployed to assist those who will be affected by the mass action. A multi-agency command center will be set up at the New MMDA head office in Pasig City to monitor the situation. Vehicles have also been prepositioned at strategic areas and are ready to be dispatched when necessary. MMDA Acting Chairperson Don Artes, who was also at the dialogue, said that the agency is expecting the same minimal impact as the previous two strikes also staged by Manibela, which is protesting the Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program. PNP spokesperson Col. Jean Fajardo said cops will be in areas where protesters will converge even as she urged members of Manibela to police their ranks in order to avoid unnecessary confrontation with authorities. 'We want to assure the public that the PNP has a sufficient number of personnel that will be deployed in areas where the protest actions would be held,' Fajardo said in a statement. She also appealed to protesters not to force other drivers to join the strike. 'We will respect their rights to air their sentiments but they should also respect the right of other drivers not to join,' she added. Other concerns and issues of the transport groups were also raised during the meeting, like the continued operations of 'colorum' or illegal vehicles not sticking to their registered routes and extortion. "We will create a technical working group to address the issues being raised by our transport group leaders. Maganda ito (This is good) so that there will be an exchange of ideas at ang solusyon ay nandirito sa ating lahat (and the solutions are all within us),' Abalos said. The leaders of the transport groups who met with Abalos thanked him for his commitment to address their concerns. Obet Martin of Pasang Masda said their groups are one with the government in pushing for transport reforms nationwide. "Nananawagan kami sa lahat ng mga members namin sa buong bansa, ayaw nating pahirapan ang ating mga mananakay. Hindi po tayo kasali sa strike bukas. Sa halip kaisa tayo ng gobyerno sa pagpapaunlad ng transportasyon sa ating bansa (We call on our members nationwide that we should not burden commuters. We will not join the strike tomorrow [Monday]. Instead, let us help the government to further improve the transport sector)," Martin said.
Source: Philippines News Agency