Many stranded amid jeepney driver strike


MANILA — Thousands of commuters were stranded across the Philippines on Monday as jeepney operators went on strike in protest at soaring fuel prices, reports and witnesses said.

Operators of the iconic vehicles — originally made from World War II jeeps and which are the backbone of the country’s land transport system — called the one-day strike to support calls for price controls and tax relief on petroleum products.

Radio reports said commuters were stranded in the capital Manila and several other cities, with key urban centers in the central and southern Philippines affected. The government deployed buses and other vehicles to offer free rides.

“Government must stop acting as if it is helpless. It repeatedly claims that the reasons behind the oil price hikes are global market forces that are beyond its control,” Renato Reyes, leader of the leftist group Bayan that is backing the strike, said in a statement.

President Gloria Arroyo has rejected calls to waive a sales tax on petroleum products and introduce subsidies to cushion the impact of pump prices on the poor, saying this would wreck the country’s hard won fiscal stability.

Police went on full alert, although there were no immediate reports of violence. Police trucks, buses, troop carriers and tow trucks were also deployed to ferry stranded commuters.