08 March 2004

---Today's Nationwide Transport Strike Averted

Surprise! Surprise!

"NOT ONLY have the transport groups postponed their scheduled nationwide strike on Monday. They have also mellowed down in their call for the resignation of Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) chairperson Maria Elena Bautista.

"Bati na kami (We are now in good terms)," Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide honorary chairman Medardo Roda told the Inquirer Sunday. Roda had led other transport leaders in demanding the ouster of Bautista." (PDI,08 March 2004)

Almost all major dailies are carrying this surprising good news.

Initially: why did the transport groups threatened to go on nationwide strike today? There were 2 major demands. One was the drivers' petition for at least P1.50 increase in the minimum jeepney fare and P2 for buses by March 16 and the other was a one-peso discount per liter of diesel for jeepney drivers in selected areas nationwide.

The planned strike was averted because the government agreed (1) to have hearings and would decide on March 16 whether or not to grant jeepney groups their petition for a one-peso provisional increase in public fares. In addition, the goverment also agreed to grant: (2) the nationwide application of diesel discount for jeepney and buses; (3) providing insurance system for the transport groups; operator’s permit; and (4) allowing the renewal of expired franchises until Dec. 31, 2004 provided operators will pay the penalties.

Leaders of the strike said they were not yet abandoning their plan of holding a nationwide strike but merely posponing it to allow the government to carry out its promises.

Why has it come to this? And why this long? Does this mean that the government has to be threatened in order to grant the concessions? For the longest time amidst the almost monthly gasoline and diesel price increases and their request for a fare increase, the goverment turned a deaf ear. Two months before the elections, they suddenly concede and give in not to two, but four concessions. I'm flummoxed again.

I'm not for any price increase (being a consumer/commuter myself) but I just lament the slow and surprising denouement of this long-standing conflict. It gives one an impression that on election year, the government becomes very malleable with demands it previously ignored.

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