March 31, 2011
DAVAO CITY —The streets of Davao City are silent but the people have spoken.
Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Southern Mindanao declares victory today as the people valiantly expressed their voice against the unbridled exploitation of oil companies by way of a nationwide transport strike.
A measly 5% of Davao City’s estimated 10,000 public utility jeepneys (PUJs) could be seen plying the main thoroughfares from north to south. This translates to a participation rate of 95%, way higher compared to what was observed in the nationwide strike held two years go.
“This is a display of the people’s determination and resolve to take a stand against their continued exploitation and misery wrought by the oil cartels’ complete control of the oil industry,” cited Franchie Buhayan, secretary general of Bayan-SMR.
Students, teachers, women, also took to the streets and joined PUJ drivers urging fellows to participate in the strike. They raised placards and distributed leaflets. Massed up in various ’persuasion points’ also were the peasants, workers and the urban poor, who took turns at making the public understand the reasons why they are on the streets. Members of religious organizations, professionals and non-government organizations also joined them.
“That these were all happening despite threats coming from the government agencies and the elite who peddled much pessimism against the strike as an effective means of people’s expression of their legitimate demands, is a testament, that the people’s resolve have prevailed,” Buhayan pointed out.
Bayan also condemns the harassment among their ranks, particularly in the incident at the Matina ‘persuasion point’ this morning where a man in civilian clothes emerged from a police station and took pictures of the protesters.
Also, Bayan-SMR lambasts LTFRB XI for taking advantage of the situation by planning to issue franchises to bus operators, as announced LTFRB-XI regional director Benjamin Go whose plan to replace PUJs with buses had been exposed.
“This is a height of callousness on the part of Regional Director Go, who, instead of supporting the legitimate calls of drivers who have been victims of overpricing and exploitation by oil companies, even resorts to a move that will surely result to the displacement of PUJ drivers,” said Buhayan.
Oil pump prices have increased 10 times since the beginning of the year. At the rate of increase, local pump prices are overpriced by as much as P6.72 per liter. At this rate, it is taking away almost P4,368 a month from a PUJ driver’s take home pay.
“The inflationary effects of oil overpricing by the Big 3 oil cartel, Caltex, Shell and Petron, which has been condoned by the present Aquino administration, has already taken unimaginable toll on the lives of the people. More Filipinos are going hungry and homeless. The people have all the just cause to declare a strike,” Buhayan said.
“It is such a shame that Aquino can still talk in defense of these oil companies rather than protecting the people,” Buhayan said.
Buhayan added that it is preposterous for Aquino to say, oil increases are justified owing to world market supply trends since the country’s main oil producer, Saudi Arabia and other members of the oil producing and exporting countries have in fact, even assured adequate supply of oil.
“Peddling these lies is the game of unscrupulous oil traders abetted by imperialist powers to pursue their greed. They are doing so, in order to have enough room for manipulating prices through speculation, which is what is happening now,” Buhayan said.
“What makes it more sad is that in the country, certain laws are in place to allow these oil companies to easily adjust the oil prices,” Buhayan pointed out.
“Add in the Expanded Value Added Tax Law, which puts on 12% more on the prices of oil, and it now becomes even more deadly for the poor,” she stressed.
Bayan-SMR demands, at the most urgent, a rollback in the prices of oil, suspension of the Oil Deregulation Law, and E-VAT. It vows to hold more similar mass actions until the people’s clamors are not heard.
Buhayan cited that if the government is really sincere, it should embark on a genuine program that will help lessen the impact of high oil prices on the people and not on some piecemeal program, such as Aquino’s recently announced subsidy for PUJ and tricycle drivers.
“President Aquino’s announcement this morning amid the nationwide strike is a clear token act, and intended only to pacify the already angry people. But the people know better,” Buhayan said.#