METRO MANILA, OCTOBER 21, 2003  (MALAYA) By RHOEL FERNANDEZ - A lightning strike by bus drivers disgruntled with the MMDA's new traffic apprehending policy left thousands of commuters stranded yesterday morning.

The protesters are blaming the MMDA's No Contact Apprehension policy and the Yellow Lane Rule along Edsa for their dwindling revenue.

"Before these were implemented we used to be able to make five to six trips, but now its down to two to three trips because we are forced to wait for long hours by staying within the Yellow Lane," said Amador Vargas, one of the 200 striking bus drivers who went to the MMDA office yesterday.

The Yellow Lane Rule was implemented last August as part of the MMDA's Edsa Organized Bus Route project, a scheme where buses plying Edsa are obliged to fall in line under a controlled dispatching system.

MMDA general manager Robert Nacianceno downplayed the strikers' concerns, describing these as a "non-issue" and pointed out it was the drivers' fault why the system has yet to be effective.

Nacianceno said the MMDA met with representatives of the bus companies several times and explained the mechanics of the scheme. He said bus companies probably failed in explaining well to the drivers how the single dispatching system works.

The MMDA's response was to conduct daily seminars to the estimated 6,000 bus drivers and conductors but attendance has been minimal at best.

At least seven of the striking bus drivers were arrested by police after they harassed and destroyed the buses of those who did not join the strike that began at 4 a.m.

Among the areas where the protesting drivers gathered were at Novaliches, Fairview, the Quezon City Hall, Litex Road and Quirino Highway, according to MMDA traffic operations director Angelito Vergel De Dios.

"At least 2,000 commuters were stranded as a result of the (transport) strike," he said.

LTFRB chairperson Ma. Elena H. Bautista said they would prosecute the drivers who figured in the incident.

"We will file charges of unjust vexation and coercion against those who will be identified as the ones who instigated the violence," Bautista said.

She also warned that they would slap with appropriate sanctions the bus operators who will be found helping the protesting bus drivers.

Most of the drivers were employees of the Pascual, Vil-5000, and Hi-Star bus companies. They later relented to return to work after MMDA officials promised to look into their concerns.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved