Palace suspends classes in Metro Manila due to threat of transport strike

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 20) — Malacañang has announced the suspension of classes in Metro Manila due to "actual and/or imminent threats" posed by some transport groups.

In a statement, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said they will suspend classes for the safety of the students.

"The President has instructed that he will suspend classes even with the slightest threat of a strike to ensure the protection and well-being of students," Roque said. "We reiterate that the government remains steadfast to modernize our public utility vehicles and will not be bullied or held hostage by some transport groups."

Roque added the decision to suspend classes outside Metro Manila will be left to the discretion of local government units.

The Palace spokesperson, in his regular press briefing at noon, expounded on the alleged "threat."

"Yan pong mga threat na yan nanggagaling kapag walang masakyan ang ating mga kabataan. So yun po ang ating iniiwasan," Roque said. "Kapag walang masasakyan ang mga kabataan, posible na kinakailangang maglakad. At kapag ika'y naglalakad, maraming possibleng aberya," he added.

(Translation: The threats are due to the possible lack of public transportation. That's what we are trying to avoid. If there's no public transportation, students may need to walk. And when they walk, a lot can happen.)

But the suspension was announced midday, when most students were already in school.

No transport group also announced they will hold a strike.

Transport group PISTON chair George San Mateo said the class suspension today due to a strike is "fake news."

San Mateo added, it is the Palace who caused the inconvenience, adding that even the police said there is no imminent threat.

"We denounce Malacanang for demonizing the legitimacy of the drivers' fight against jeepney phaseout. Malacanang is maliciously creating an atmosphere to crackdown legistimate protests of drivers and the public," San Mateo said in mixed English and Filipino.

The transport group leader added the President should instead listen to the plight of the drivers.

Several transport groups held a nationwide transport strike on Monday due to the public utility vehicle (PUV) modernization program. The Metro Manila Development Authority said the strike had little to no impact on commuters.

San Mateo said yesterday they had no plans of holding a strike on Tuesday.

Earlier, the Palace said if PISTON would push through with its threat to continue the strike, they will call for class suspensions up until March 23, Friday.