BALANGA CITY, Bataan — Drivers and operators of passenger jeepneys plying the routes in the first district of Bataan temporarily stopped their operations on Monday, to demonstrate their opposition to the planned phaseout of the vehicles.
“We are against the phaseout,” shouted members of the Balanga–Orani Drivers, Operators Association, with their jeepneys parked at the their terminal and along the shoulder of the MacArthur Highway in this city.
Government transport terminals for jeepney bound for Dinalupihan, Orani and Abucay were empty but seen were some vehicles of the Metro Bataan Development Authority offering “libreng sakay” (free rides).
“It is difficult without jeepneys and it creates big inconvenience if those are not around,” commented commuters in MBDA service vehicles.
No passenger jeepney was seen in the MacArthur Highway from Balanga City to Dinalupihan but several commuters were seen waiting for a ride along the highway.
Affected by the transport strike were passengers bound from Balanga City to the towns of Abucay, Samal, Orani, Hermosa and Dinalupihan and vice-versa.
“We are just airing our opposition on the planned phaseout of jeepney. It would be hard for us. However, if the government, as what it is saying, will modernize our jeepney, it will be a nice one,” said Emmanuel Cruz, president of the group.
Cruz said they stopped operation dawn of Monday and resumed after an ecumenical mass at the four-lane road in Balanga City at past 10:00 a.m.
Fredelito Guanzon, chairman of the Balanga – Orani Transport Service Multi-Purpose Cooperative, said that many of his members are former overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who ventured into buying passenger jeepneys.
“This is our only means of livelihood,” he said.
“We will look and study the subsidy that the government has been saying. But we are against the phaseout. The jeepney is the only thing that we have been able to buy as OFW,”Guanzon said.
Cruz and Guanzon said 600 passenger jeepney participated in the early morning transport strike.
Jobert Balana, chief of Balanga City Public Service Office, said the Metro Bataan Development Authority and the city government had fielded 45 vehicles to offer free ride to commuters as early as 4:00 a.m.
Police Senior Supt. Benjamin Silo, Jr., Bataan police director, has directed his officers to see to it that the transport strike was orderly and peaceful. Ernie Esconde/PNA-northboundasia.com