Commuters wait for buses during rush hour on Monday after bus operators went on a flash strike to protest a number coding scheme being implemented by the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority with a view to reducing traffic congestion. Image Credit: AP

Manila: At six in the morning, commuter Norberto Narrido was surprised when he was offered a ride in an air-conditioned army bus from southern suburban Coastal Road to Ayala Avenue, the country's financial district.

In other places, bus drivers refused to take passengers not stopping even when policemen flagged them down on behalf of irate commuters.

Complaints began to pour in at the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) early in the morning, MMDA spokeswoman Tina Velasco said.

After news of the unannounced bus strike hit the airwaves, the military and the police pressed trucks and other vehicles into service to break the gridlock created apparently by 13,168 truant bus drivers. The strike action was provoked by a number-coding scheme introduced by the MMDA for some 7,400 provincial buses entering Metro Manila.

Bus owners called the incident a "bus holiday," adding that hundreds of bus drivers called in sick and told their bosses that they could not report for work.

The bus owners, at the same time, complained that the number coding scheme would force some 2,000 buses off services to Metro Manila on a daily basis.