By: Jose Santino S. Bunachita, Nestle L. Semilla October 15,2017 - 10:58 PM

PREPARED. Gerome Famador (far right), a dispatcher for the Department of Public Services (DPS) of the Cebu City government, on Sunday calls drivers of the city-owned buses to prepare for today’s transport strike and be on call to ferry stranded commuters. (CDN PHOTO/TONEE DESPOJO)

Cebu officials yesterday set in place contingency measures to address the projected public transport shortage today, especially in Metro Cebu cities and towns, while heeding Malacañang’s order to suspend work in all government offices and classes at all levels in both public and private schools across the country due to the nationwide transport strike.

Transport group Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operaytor Nationwide (Piston) set their nationwide strike today and tomorrow — their third this year — to protest the Department of Transportation’s jeepney modernization program that called for, among others, the phasing out of public utility jeeps (PUJs) that are 15 years old and above.

In Cebu, at least 200 PUJs plying routes in Metro Cebu and operated or driven by Piston members will join the strike, according to Piston-Cebu leaders.

For the private sector, the decision to suspend work was left to the discretion of the employers, said Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, speaking from Malacañang on Sunday.

Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said the suspension of work and classes based on Memorandum Circular Number 28, which also covered local government units (LGUs) and government-owned or controlled corporations, was “to minimize public inconvenience arising from the planned nationwide transportation strike.”

Following Malacañang’s announcement, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno also suspended work in all courts in the country today.

Work in Senate was also suspended, according to Senate officer-in-charge Sen. Gregorio Honasan.

The Department of Education (DepEd) has also issued Memorandum no. 157 on the suspension of classes and work at the agency and public schools across the country.

Back on the road by 1 p.m.

In Cebu City, officials were not expecting that the strike would have a major impact on the city’s public transport; nonetheless, 15 city-owned Kaohsiung buses will be on standby to ferry stranded passengers for free today, according to Councilor Dave Tumulak.

Another 10 Ceres buses will also be deployed if needed, but for a minimum fare, he added.

Tumulak said he talked with Piston-Cebu coordinator Greg Perez who assured him that the transport strike would not affect Cebu City since they only have a few members in the city.

He said he was told that the cities of Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu are the ones expected to bear the brunt of the transport stoppage.

Piston-Cebu members and some farmers belonging to the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP)-Cebu have planned to mass at the intersection of Osmeña Boulevard and P. del Rosario Street starting at 6 a.m. today, but Perez has assured that the protesters will not be urging other PUJ drivers who choose to still ply their routes to stop and join them in their protest.

Perez said they also planned to return to their routes at 1 p.m. today after their protest-rally in the morning.

According to Perez, their members, who would come from different converging points in Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu cities, would gather first at P. del Rosario Street before proceeding to Colon St. for a rally at 10 a.m.

Perez said they have no intention to create disorder but only to air their sentiment against the plan to phase out old PUJs.

“Tomorrow, the main topic of the rally is about ‘World Foodless Day’ spearheaded by the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP). If the plan to modernize the jeepneys will push through, we will lose our jobs and we will go hungry,” he said in Cebuano.

Keeping it peaceful

The Cebu City Police Office (CCPO), on the other hand, would deploy at least 50 personnel from the Civil Disturbance Management (CDM) unit to keep the peace during the rally, said Senior Insp. Narolf Tan, deputy chief of the CCPO’s City Intelligence Branch.

The Police Regional Office in Central Visayas (PRO-7), through Regional Intelligence Division (RID-7) chief Senior Supt. Jonathan Cabal, held a dialogue with leaders of Piston-Cebu and KMP-Cebu. Both groups assured the police and public that they will conduct a peaceful rally.

The Cebu City Transportation Office (CCTO) will deploy eight traffic patrol cars to do roving around the city’s thoroughfares as early as 5:30 a.m. today to check and assess the situation, said CCTO operations chief Francisco Ouano.

“So far, we don’t expect our public transport system to be paralyzed. They have been staging similar transport strikes before. But just in case, we will closely monitor the activity,” Ouano said.

Ouano also suggested to employees of private sector that will still have to report to work today to also look for possible alternative modes of transportation in order to get to their workplaces.

He said they can use motorcycles-for-hire, and mobile vehicle-hailing applications like Angkas, Grab and Uber.

LTFRB’s preparation

The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board in Central Visayas (LTFRB-7) has also coordinated with the local government units of Cebu City, Mandaue City and Lapu-Lapu City for the transport strike.

In separate letters sent to mayors of the three cities last Friday, LTFRB-7 Regional Director Ahmed Cuizon informed them that starting at 5:30 a.m. today, two teams from their office will be on mobile to monitor the transport situation in Metro Cebu.

“They will be on constant coordination with the traffic management bodies of affected Local Government Units,” the letter read.

Advance special permits were also issued by the LTFRB to 20 buses from Vallacar Transit Inc., which operates the Ceres buses, to ply Metro Cebu’s routes in lieu of PUJs for a flat rate fare of P10 per passenger.

The buses will be assigned to Cebu City (10 buses), Mandaue City (five buses), and Lapu-Lapu City (five buses).

At the same time, Cuizon said that MyBus, which travels from the South Road Properties and Talisay City, going to the Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA), has been allowed to pick up or drop off passengers along their usual route even though they are not in the designated bus stops.

The LTFRB will also not apprehend other public utility buses that pick up and drop off passengers outside of designated bus stops within the two-day transport strike.

Cuizon said they may also issue more special permits to other public utility vehicles depending on the situation.

Make-up classes

Meanwhile, students should expect to hold a class on a weekend to make up for today’s suspension of classes, said Cebu City School’s Division Assistant Superintendent Danilo Gudelusao.

“We have to conduct a make-up class on a Saturday, just to complete the school calendar for this year,” Gudelusao said yesterday.

Most private schools in Cebu City, such as the University of Cebu (UC), University of the Visayas (UV), Cebu Institute of Technology University (CIT-U), University of Southern Philippines Foundation (USPF) and University of San Jose–Recoletos (USJ-R), have announced their suspension of classes through their official Facebook pages.

Alternative routes

In Mandaue City, Mayor Luigi Quisumbing said they have prepared 20 government vehicles to transport the city’s stranded passengers, and have coordinated with LTFRB to field buses in Mandaue City in case of shortage of transportation, mainly for employees of private firms that would opt not to suspend work today.

Senior Supt. Roberto Alanas, chief of the Mandaue City Police Office, said they also provided escort personnel to government and government-hired vehicles transporting stranded passengers.

In Lapu-Lapu City, free vehicles will be available in the city’s Pajo and Tamiya terminals to transport stranded passengers, said Mayor Paz Radaza.

She said the city’s Disaster Team/Emergency and Responders Team personnel were tasked to facilitate the transport needs of commuters.

Radaza said they prepared more than 10 government vehicles to transport stranded passengers up to White Gold, North Reclamation Area, and to Country Mall in Barangay Banilad, both in Cebu City.

Radaza also encouraged the public to make use of the ferry boats plying between Mactan Island’s Muelle Osmeña Wharf to Cebu City’s Pier 3 as an alternative to taking a land trip between the island and mainland Cebu.

Senior Supt. Rommel Cabagnot, the chief of the Lapu-Lapu City Police Office, said police personnel would be deployed to the terminals and other public places in the city to ensure the safety of all commuters. / WITH INQUIRER.NET AND CORRESPONDENTS NORMAN V. MENDOZA, JESSA MAE SOTTO, FUTCH ANTHONY INSO AND FE MARIE DUMABOC

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TAGS: class suspension, jeepney, Piston, public transport, transport strike
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