MANILA, Philippines - Claiming they were not consulted about the new policy, bus operators from Manila and the provinces will hold a strike on Monday, November 15, in protest of the number-coding scheme for buses which will take effect on the same day.
"We are left with no other choice but to pursue our planned mass action," said Atty. Grace Adducul, spokesperson of the Metro Bus Transport Inc..
Adducul told ABS-CBN News during the sidelines of a meeting of various city and provincial bus operators on Friday that more than 3,000 buses or about 70 percent of all buses plying Metro Manila, will reportedly take part in the strike.
Among the groups that agreed to participate are the Integrated Metropolitan Bus Operators Association, Inter-City Bus Operators Association, Metro Bus Transport Club Inc., and the South Luzon Bus Operators Association (SOLUBOA).
Adducul said they will convince more bus operators' associations to join.
Bus operators said the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) finalized the plan without informing them.
"We were surprised," Adducul said. "As of last night, you cannot find anything on this matter on the MMDA web site."
SOLUBOA President Homer Mercado argued that it would not be wise to impose the number-coding scheme especially during the Christmas season. He estimates a 20% reduction in the number of buses plying Metro Manila every day.
"Peak season eh," he said. "Ngayon pa lang, nagkakaubusan na ng bus, babawasan mo pa."
Mercado added that his group has already submitted an appeal to the MMDA. If the agency does not respond, he said they will forward it to the Office of the President.
MMDA Chairman Francis Tolentino said, however, that bus operators were consulted.
He replayed a video to ABS-CBN taken during a meeting with bus operators, where they are shown raising hands when asked if they agree to the number-coding scheme.
But Adducul said those present in the meeting were asked to choose between the odd-even scheme and the number-coding scheme. She said they raised their hands to choose the latter as the "lesser evil," but that it didn't mean they want it implemented.
Tolentino said the scheme is experimental for now, and will last until January 2011. The government will then assess its effectiveness.
"Ito po ay nangangailangan ng sakripisyo mula sa lahat," he said. "Bago tayo magreklamo, tingnan muna natin kung gagana."
As early as now, however, Tolentino believes it is the long-term solution to the Metro's traffic woes.
Bus drivers and commuters also welcome the scheme.
Gerald Lanuza, a driver, thinks the number-coding scheme will ease traffic, particularly in EDSA.
One of his passengers agrees.
"Maganda 'yan," said Milagros Mañosa, who rides buses every day going to work. "Nale-late ako lagi sa tarbaho dahil sa trapik eh!"
Under the number coding scheme, buses that have license plates ending in 1 and 2 are banned on EDSA on Mondays; 3 and 4 on Tuesdays; 5 and 6 on Wednesdays; 7 and 8 on Thursdays, and, 9 and 0 on Fridays.
Provincial buses prohibited from plying their routes will be stopped from entering Metro Manila at all entry points, including the North Luzon and South Luzon Expressways.