LEGAZPI CITY—Three soldiers on board a military truck dispatched to provide free rides to commuters were hurt as transport groups claimed to have paralyzed almost all jeepney routes in Albay and Sorsogon as of noontime Wednesday, during the Bicol-wide strike called to protest increases in fuel prices.
An Army official reported that three soldiers, who were on board the military truck, were injured when suspected communist rebels attacked them along the Maharlika Highway in Guinobatan, Albay, early morning.
Colonel Arthur Ang, commander of the 901st Army Brigade, in a phone interview, said Private First Class Jayjay Desamparado, Private First Class Rollie Intan and Private First Class Sherwin Arnejos, all members of the 7th Scout Ranger Company operating in Albay, were hurt during the attack in Morera village in Guinobatan town at around 6 a.m.
“They were among a seven-man team of Scout Rangers on board a military truck on its way to Ligao City from Bacacay town (both in Albay) to provide the free ride when the attacked happened,” said Ang.
He said the truck was negotiating the Maharlika Highway in Morera when an undetermined number of rebels bearing assault rifles fired at the soldiers.
The soldiers, however, were able to fire back that led to the withdrawal of the rebels, said Ang.
Chief Superintendent Cecilio Calleja, Bicol police director, in a text message, said “no untoward incident” happened during the strike.
Ramon Rescovilla, deputy secretary general of the Concerned Drivers and Operators for Reform (Condor)-Bicol, an affiliate of the Pagkakaisa ng mga Tsuper at Operators Nationwide (Piston), declared the transport strike a success in Albay and Sorsogon .“Only a handful were seen plying the streets in Albay as of 10 a.m. while those in Sorsogon have totally responded to the call for strike,” said
He said that in Camarines Norte, they received a report of 82 to 85 percent paralysis of routes.
In Camarines Sur, the transport group claimed to have paralyzed 90 percent of the routes in the eastern (Partido area) and southern (Rinconada) towns, which were outside the capital town of Pili and Naga City, which did not join the strike, added Rescovilla.
He said there were no field reports yet from Masbate and Catanduanes.
Classes in all levels in Albay were suspended but private and government offices across the region were open including banks, malls and other commercial establishments.
Tessa Lopez, spokesperson of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan- Bicol, which has been supporting the protest action, said the strike started 1 a.m on Wednesday and would last until 12 midnight of the same day.
The protesters denounced government inaction to address the profiteering by the three big oil companies operating in the country.
Rescovilla cited in particular the P9 per liter overpricing on fuel costs—an accumulation of the oil price increases from January 2008 to July this year, which prompted the strike.