Public urged to join lockdown to protest soaring fuel prices

Rodolfo Gardoce, Fr. Chris Gonzales, Pete Pico, Elizabeth Katalbas, Albert Villanueva and Junjun Asis (l-r) at the transportation strike press conference on Monday, March 14.*

The transportation sector and Church leaders are calling on residents to support a two-day transport strike in Bacolod City and other parts of Negros Occidental by going on a lockdown to urge the government to implement mitigating measures to curb the soaring prices of fuel that will affect everyone.

Long lines of vehicles were seen at gasoline stations in Bacolod City on Monday, March 14, trying to beat another huge increase in fuel prices on Tuesday.

Caltex, Cleanfuel, Petron, Total, and Unioil announced that they will be hiking prices of diesel by P13.15 per liter and gasoline by P7.10 by 6 a.m. Tuesday.

Caltex and Petron will also be raising kerosene prices by P10.50.

The transport strike, dubbed a People’s Holiday, will be held from 3 a.m. on March 21 to 3 p.m. on March 22, and will be capped by an ecumenical prayer rally at the Bacolod Public Plaza, its organizers said at a press conference at the Negros Press Club on Monday.

In a joint statement, they said if residents complied with lockdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic, they can also show their support for the strike by staying home for two days because the effects of the surging oil price hikes will not exempt anyone.

Residents should join the lockdown to protest against the rising costs of fares, basic needs, electricity, water and transportation of products, they said.

They said they are not calling for fare hikes, but for the mitigation of the rising cost of fuel through the suspension of the 12 percent Value Added Tax (VAT) on petroleum products and price control on basic commodities.

They are also calling for the immediate distribution of the P6,500 subsidy to drivers of tricycles, taxis, jeepneys, mini buses and other public utility vehicles and the P7,200 assistance for operators.

Their other demands are the scrapping of the 12 percent VAT on water, electricity and basic commodities, the removal of excise tax on public utility vehicles, and the abolition of the Oil Deregulation Law and the “fake modernization program”.

The joint statement was signed by Pete Pico of the Negros Consumers Watch, Elizabeth Katalbas of the Federation of the Bacolod City Drivers Associations (FEBACDA), Albert Villanueva of the Sentrong Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operators Negros (SStone) and Rodolfo Gardoce of the United Negros Drivers and Operators Center (UNDOC).

Also present at the press conference was Fr. Chris Gonzales, Diocese of Bacolod Social Action Center director, Junjun Asis of SStone and Diego Malacad of UNDOC.

Malacad said UNDOC members in La Castellana, Moises Padilla, Sipalay City, Kabankalan City, Binalbagan, La Carlota City, Sagay City, Talisay City, Silay City and Escalante City will be joining the transportation strike.

They are also seeking the support of the bishops of the dioceses of Kabankalan, Bacolod and Sa Carlos City, he added.

SStone groups in towns and cities of Negros Occidental will also joining the strike, Villanueva said.

Gov. Eugenio Jose Lacson said they will make sure that provincial government employees get to work during the transportation strike.

Each department will have to discuss carpooling, he said.*

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