PARIS, France - The Philippine Embassy in France has urged Filipinos living there to be cautious and avoid going out if not necessary amid an ongoing nationwide strike against pension reform.
"Sa lahat po ng mga kababayan, mag-ingat po tayo at magmanman sa mga nangyayari," said Philippine Ambassador to France Ma. Theresa P. Lazaro.
(To all Filipinos, be careful and watchful of what's going on.)
Hundreds of thousands of workers across France left their workplaces and took to the streets starting Thursday to show their opposition to President Emmanuel Macron’s proposed pension reform on Thursday.
According to the Ministry of the Interior, the strike has brought together 806,000 protesters nationwide, tens of thousands in the capital.
Huge crowds of labor union groups, employees from public and private sectors — railway workers, airline ground staff, teachers, firefighters, hospital workers, students- and other groups marched down the major streets of Paris.
Yellow Vest protesters, who have shown non-stop unrest for 55 weeks, have come out to join the various labor union groups for the first time making the December 5 demonstrations some of the largest in recent years.
Radical protesters clad in black set trash cans on fire, overturned parked vehicles, and hurled objects at police force who responded by firing tear gas towards demonstrators that caused tension and forced dispersion. As the protests continued, they have grown more violent and disruptive.
The embassy's social media account has been sharing links of updates regarding the demonstrations and public transports for Filipinos to monitor.
With most metro lines and trains closed, commuters struggled to find ways to get to their destination. Many Parisians cycled to work while others especially suburb residents stayed at home.
Brian Tampoc, president of the E-Pinoy association in Épinay-Sur-Seine in the northern suburbs of Paris, had to stay at the hotel where he works for two nights.
"I have just landed this job just a few months ago…I'd rather not go home for a couple of nights than lose my job," Tampoc said.
While some Filipinos took the opportunity to bond and hang out with their families and friends, most part-time workers worry about lesser working hours, which means lower salary at the end of the month.
"I can’t afford not to work, especially that I am not paid when I don't come… It's Christmas time soon and it's just sad that I won't be able to earn enough money to send to my family this month because of these strikes," said Maridel dela Cruz.
Some kababayans sought car rental service to get to work while others walked their way to their destination.
The protests are set to continue and most train and subway lines will remain closed on Friday, while the Yellow Vest group has called to demonstrate on Saturday, many unions have warned that strikes might run until Christmas.
"Sa mga kababayan na papunta pa lang dito sa Paris, ang pagkasabi po kasi ang nationwide strike may last until Monday pero hindi pa rin po alam kung anong mangyayari baka nga ma-extend pa ito," the ambassador said.
(To Filipinos about to come to Paris, what was said was that the nationwide strike may last until Monday but we still don't know what could happen, it might be extended.)