Government agencies such as the MMDA (Metro Manila Development Authority) belittled the day of protest but President Benigno Simeon Aquino III signed and announced that day a previously pending executive order that promises to give discounts and subsidies to public utility vehicles.
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – The nationwide people’s protests last March 31 was “a success as it drew a lot of support from drivers’ and workers’ groups and various multi-sectoral groups in the Philippines”, said Larry Tan, spokesman of Koalisyon ng Progresibo at Makabayang Mamamayan (KPMM).
Before midday, the “transport caravan” of more than a hundred jeepneys and FX taxis in Metro Manila had started on its route from Quezon City to Welcome Rotonda, where they were met by private sector workers and government employees from the KMU and Courage, members of Gabriela, Health Alliance of Democracy, the urban poor, various youth and students groups and progressive party-list representatives. A brief program was held there.
In various communities in Manila, Quezon City, Caloocan City and other areas in Metro Manila, organizations allied with KMU and Bayan marched to join the protest in Mendiola later that day to “condemn the Aquino government’s inaction on the spiraling oil prices and the grave abuse by oil companies of hapless consumers”.
Women protesters wrote their demands on oil products.(Photo by Marya Salamat / bulatlat.com)
Elsewhere in the country, protest actions, transport caravans, and transport strikes were also held in Cagayan de Oro City, Iligan City, Bukidnon, General Santos City, Zamboanga City, Davao City, and Surigao in Mindanao; Bacolod City, Iloilo City, Roxas City (Capiz), and Cebu City in the Visayas; and Angeles City, Santiago City (Isabela), Calamba City (Laguna), Sorsogon City, and Legazpi City in Luzon.
In many Mindanao cities, chapters of Piston and members of Bayan reported up to 98-percent paralysis of transportation as most drivers joined the nationwide day of protest by holding a strike. In Region X, organizers led by Solidarity of Transport Alliance in Region X (STAREX), an affiliate of PISTON, and Bagong Alyangsang Makabayan (BAYAN), reported that protesters from various transport groups and peoples’ organizations trooped to the streets of Cagayan de Oro City, Iligan City, Malaybalay and Valencia.
STarex leader Sonny Hinsolango said his group is pushing for a minimum of P7.50 ($0.17) per liter rollback of oil prices, and the scrapping of the 12 percent EVAT imposed on oil products. The group is also calling for the scrapping of the Oil Deregulation Law and the nationalization of oil industry.
In Malaybalay, Bukidnon, an 80-percent transport paralysis was declared, according to Bayan Bukidnon and Pigyayungaan, an organization of farmer-Lumads who joined the protesting drivers and comprised the majority of the protesters. Pigyayungaan is also pushing for an increase in prices of their farm products. They condemned the oil price hikes for further pushing them to poverty and starvation.
In Valencia City, also in Bukidnon, a 95-percent paralysis of public utility vehicles was reported by Bayan Valencia and Kasama Bukidnon as of 9 a.m. of the nationwide day of protest. Zaldy Galamiton of Bayan Bukidnon condemned the dispersal of the protesting drivers by 10 a.m. as a violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Police elements under Chief Mutya and personnel from Traffic Management Group under Larosa, Barangay Captain Borbon and City Administrator Celicius Larosa reportedly threatened to slap the protesting drivers with cases.
In Iligan, the transport strike paralyzed 100-percent of public utility jeepneys by 9 a.m., according to Bayan Lanao and drivers’ group Clutch.
Fighting oil overpricing one ‘day of protest’ at a time.(Photo by Marya Salamat / bulatlat.com)
Bayan Northern Mindanao also reported up to 90-percent paralysis of public utility vehicles in Gingoog City east of Misamis Oriental. All of the public Jeepneys and multicabs reportedly stopped plying their routes, while about 10-percent of public tricycles remained as the only visible means of transportation in the city.
Surigao City in Surigao del Norte, Butuan in Agusan del Norte and Bayugan in Agusan del Sur reported some 98-percent paralysis of public transport, Steve Ranjo, national chairman of Piston, quoted the updates they received by midday.
“The success of the transport strike today and peaceful demonstration of various sectors is due to the overwhelming support of the people and the drivers and operators,” said Edil Gonzaga, secretary-general of Transmission-Piston.
In Angeles City in Pampanga and Legazpi City in Albay, the transport strike was also reportedly successful.
Government agencies such as the MMDA (Metro Manila Development Authority) belittled the day of protest but President Benigno Simeon Aquino III signed and announced that day a previously pending executive order touted to mitigate the impact of fuel price hikes. It reportedly included discounts and subsidies for public transportation vehicles.
“Palliative dole outs such as (these) subsidies gloss over and does not address the real issues pertaining to the inhumanity and injustice of the Oil Deregulation Law and EVAT,” said Gonzaga. He explained that they cannot subscribe to this “tokenish and insulting offer of a 500 million subsidy as government’s counterpart for the incessant oil price increases”.
While the protesters viewed the newly approved subsidies as nothing but a deceptive, limited appeasement, they still considered it as an indication of the power of concerted mass actions.
Anakpawis partylist’s former representative Joel Maglunsod stressed a point during March 31 protest vs oil overpricing.(Photo by Marya Salamat / bulatlat.com)
These mass actions are “just for starters,” declared Anakpawis vice-chairman and former partylist representative Joel Maglunsod. He reiterated that their demands cannot be appeased by mere crumbs. “Our demand is for the government to stop oil price hikes, junk the oil deregulation law and nationalize the oil industry.” He added that it is best also to “scrap the EVAT on oil” and to really give the people immediate relief from hunger and want, to grant their demand for a substantial, across the board wage hike.