By CHRISTIAN RAY BUENDIA
LOS BANOS, Laguna — Decrying the barrage of oil price hikes under the Aquino administration, militant transport group Southern Tagalog Region Transport Organization-Piston (Starter-Piston) and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Timog Katagalugan (Bayan-TK) held a transport strike last July 20, paralyzing up to 100 percent of public transportation in strategic municipalities in Southern Tagalog.
According to progressive groups, almost 100 percent of public utility vehicles (PUJ) in San Pedro, Santa Rosa, Biñan, Cabuyao and Calamba City in Laguna and Lemery, Lipa City, and Tanuan City in Batangas participated in the strike. The transport strike was also able to partially paralyze traffic in San Pedro and Los Baños, Laguna, Silang, Cavite and Sto. Tomas, Batangas.
Alex Balayan, vice president of Starter-Piston, said the ten-hour transportation stoppage seeks to push for the repeal the Oil Deregulation Law, which permits the international cartel of oil companies to dictate fuel prices.
“Following the hike in pump prices last July 12, the people again will have to grapple with a P 2.00 per liter increase in gasoline and P 0.90 per liter increase in diesel and kerosene prices. This is the twentieth time since January that there has been an increase in oil prices,” he said.
“The Oil Deregulation Law allows oil companies to fix prices by taking out state regulation of price increases. What you get in this setup are arbitrary oil price hikes like the ones we are experiencing, with the big oil companies raking in big profits at the cost of public welfare. This will trickle down to the people in the form of skyrocketing increases in the price of basic commodities and utilities like water and food, aggravating the poverty and hunger they are already experiencing,” he added.
Meanwhile, this week’s oil price hike has caused other transport groups to urge the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board to raise the minimum fare for PUJs by P 0.50 to P8.50.
Starter-Piston President Rolando Mingo said, however, that increasing the fare will be only divisive. “Increasing the fare will never be a real solution to the spate of oil price hikes, because this is essentially only a passing of the burden from the transport sector to the people, who already have too much to bear. This proposal is divisive at best, since it unnecessarily clashes the interests of the people and the jeepney drivers while the oil companies enjoy millions and millions of profit,” he said.
Mingo added that unless the Oil Deregulation Law is scrapped, their transport group and other progressive organizations are prepared to launch intensified mass actions in the future.
Bayan-TK secretary general Leo XL Fuentes said the transport strike is part of a week-long protest that will culminate in a large-scale mobilization dubbed as the People’s State of the Nation Address (Sona) simultaneous with President Aquino’s second report on the state of the nation on July 25.
“Nothing could be clearer than the fact that the Aquino Administration is anti-people and serves only the economic interests of the capitalists and foreign multinational corporations. President Aquino can urge lawmakers to repeal anti-people policies such as the Oil Deregulation Law and the expanded-value added tax, yet because of his subservience to the capitalists he will not do so despite the misery these policies inflict on the Filipino people,” he said.
Fuentes furthered that Bayan-TK, along with various sectoral organizations, have set up a protest camp in San Pedro, Laguna since Monday in preparation of the People’s State of the Nation Address.
Also, youth group Kabataan Partylist has launched an ongoing series of State of the Youth Addresses in the four provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon to discuss the real condition and prospects of the Filipino youth under the Aquino administration.
“The people are already fed up with the Aquino rhetoric of change that day by day proves to be hollow and does not reflect the condition of the common people. It is time for the people themselves to expose the genuine state of the nation and collectively take the necessary steps to solve the ills of society,” Fuentes said.