AN OFFICIAL of the Land Transportation and Franchising Board (LTFRB) downplayed Monday's transport strike, pointing out that Transport Federation of Cagayan de Oro (Trafeco), said to be the biggest group of jeepney drivers and operators in the city, did not participate in the protest.

LTFRB-Northern Mindanao director Aminoden Guro said Trafeco which holds 95 percent of the public transportation operating in the city did not join the protest which was aimed at stopping the Department of Transportation's plan to phaseout 15-years-old Public Utility Jeepneys (PUJs).

Guro said the public were able to go on with their daily activities as they provided five buses while the military fielded another seven trucks to ferry commuters.

The City Government as well as the Provincial Government also fielded all of its vehicles to give free rides especially to their employees.

Guro also said the protests were premature since the implementation of the phase out is still 2 to 3 years away.

"Ilang pagsabot sa modernization, dali-dali i-phase out ang PUJ, pero dili ingani, dili nato sila pwede iphase-out kung walay ipuli, ayha ra kung naa nay replacement. So kinahanglan naay new units, environmental-friendly iyang makina, with GPS, Wifi, speed limiter, and CCTV (Modernization and the phase out of jeepneys cannot be done if there are still no replacements. There has to be new units first, units with environment-friendly engines, GPS, Wifi, speed limiter, and CCTV)," Guro said.

"The reason why we should implement the phaseout is because the jeepneys are not road-worthy, meaning to say, accident-prone, and also pollutants,” he added.

Guro, who had a dialogue with the transport groups who held a rally in front of the LTFRB office, said he will submit the group's position paper to the national office and help 'fine-tune the implementing rules'.

But Chief Inspector Sebastian Chua, chief of the traffic division of Cagayan de Oro City Police Office contradicted the LTFRB official’s claim saying about 70 percent of public transportation was crippled by the 4 a.m. to 6 p.m. strike.

Ringgo Lago, coordinator of Piston in Region X, likewise said the protest was a success, saying 100 percent of the transport group participated in the protest.

Lago also criticized the planned phase out saying this will lead to unemployment among drivers who, he said, rely on the jeepneys to feed their families.

"Muabot ug 12,000 ka drivers, operators, ug negosyo ang padisgrasya tungod aning jeepney phase out sa DOTr. Sa Northern Mindanao pa lamang, 90% sa among members ang dili jud kaabot sa requirements ng pagrenew sa franchise. (An estimated 12,000 drivers, operators, and businesses will be affected by the jeepney phase out DOTr. Here in Northern Mindanao, 90 percent of our members could not afford to fulfill the requirements for the renewal of franchise)," Lago said.

“Implementing the PUV Phase-out is taking away our right to live. Thus, we will continue to fight neo-liberal attacks against the transport sector,” Lago added.

Many Kagay-anons deeply felt the effect of the transport strike yesterday; among them were students who were not able to make it to school in time.

The Department of Education-Region 10 Division Assistant Superintendent Reynaldo E. Manuel, Jr. announced that while classes were not officially suspended, schools who are affected where teachers and students cannot report should have make-up classes on Saturday, March 4.

Office workers also had trouble gong to their respective offices because of the national transport strike. According to Aaron Presto who lives in Barangay Carmen and whose office is located along Don A. Velez street, said he really had to bear the long walk to work because of the lack of jeepneys to work.

"Ang nakalisod ani kay minos na gani ang mga jeep, gaulan pa jud. So kami nga commuters nga mubaklay na lang unta, mabasa pa jud. (What's hard about the situation is that aside from the lesser number of jeepneys, it is also raining. So we, the commuters who choose to walk instead would also be wet)," Presto said.