"CONDUCT it peacefully."

The appeal came from Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office (Nocppo) and the Bacolod City Police Office (BCPO) as the public transport groups hold a two-day strike starting Monday, March 21, 2022.

BCPO Colonel Thomas Joseph Martir said they will deploy policemen in the city's main thoroughfares as early as 3 a.m. Monday.

Martir said they will also offer their patrol cars to service commuters who will be stranded.

He said intelligence officers will also be deployed in various areas in the city to ensure that other groups will not mar the activity.

“Respect and do not force those who wish to continue plying their routes to stop and join the strike,” Martir told protestors.

For her part, Nocppo Spokesperson Lieutenant Abegael Donasco said they will also maximize all their uniformed personnel, especially those who are assigned to various police stations.

“While they practice their rights, hopefully, no violence will happen,” Donasco said.

Vallacar Transport Inc. (VTI), operator of Ceres Buses, said they are not joining the strike.

The bus firm said in a statement that as a member of the Provincial Bus Operators Association of the Philippines (PBOAP), there is no advice to stop operations.

VTI currently utilizes about 60 percent of its entire number of passenger buses, including Cebu, Manila and Zamboanga trips from Bacolod City due to the ongoing coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.

Aside from the United Drivers and Operators Center (Undoc), the Federation of Bacolod City Drivers Association (Febacda), and Sentrong Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operators Negros (Sstone) are joining the two-day transport strike.

The two-day protest dubbed "People's Holiday" is supported by the Negros Consumers Watch and Alliance of Concerned Transport of Occidental Negros, a group of vehicle-for-hire, taxi and shuttle operators.

Undoc Secretary General Diego Malacad said they will put up rally centers in Talisay City and at Lacson-Circumferential Flyover in Barangay Bata, Magsayasay Avenue, overpass near Robinson's Place Bacolod, Rolling Hills Memorial Park and Santo Niño Stop in Bacolod.

Malacad said there will also be rally centers on Ramos Street, Bangga Homesite, Alijis, Handumanan, Felisa and Bangga Cory.

“We will respect them (those who will not join the strike) but they also need to respect us,” Malacad said, adding that they will avoid being violent unless they are provoked.

He said that those who will not join the strike should avoid rally centers.

Malacad assured that "we will police our own ranks."

The transport sectors in Bacolod City and Negros Occidental are demanding the scrapping of the excise tax on fuel products and the abolition of the Oil Deregulation Law.

Negros Occidental Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson earlier expressed his support for the transport sector, which will be conducting the two-day strike.

The provincial government has deployed 25 to 30 vehicles of the provincial government to pick up its employees since it will still be business as usual at the Capitol, Provincial Administrator lawyer Rayfrando Diaz II said.

Like Lacson, Bacolod City Mayor Evelio Leonardia also expressed solidarity with the transport sector as they call on national agencies to provide some relief to an already difficult situation that is further compounded by the current health crisis.

So as not to disrupt the city government services to its constituents, the City Government will observe regular office hours and provide transport services to employees. (With reports from TDE)