By Argyll Cyrus Geducos and Alexandria San Juan
Malacañang explained that the P1-increase in jeepney fare in Metro Manila is due to the high prices of oil in the world market.
On Wednesday, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) approved the provisional fare increase for public utility jeepneys (PUJs) in Metro Manila, Central Luzon, and Calabarzon.
The order will raise the minimum fare from P8 to P9.
The fare hike was expected to take effect Thursday afternoon and will cover the National Capital Region (NCR), Region 3, and Region 4.
‘May still go down’
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque in his Thursday press briefing, however, assured that jeepney fares may still go down if the price of oil will also decrease.
“Yes. So, it’s a result of the increase in the price of petroleum. But we assure you that if the price of petroleum goes down, there would be corresponding adjustments as well,” Roque said.
To cushion the effects of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Act (TRAIN) on jeepney operators and drivers, the government has committed to grant fuel subsidies to them.
However with the increase in the price of oil in the world market, Malacañang said that Duterte ordered the Department of Energy (DOE) to look into importing oil from non-OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) members including Russia.
Roque, in his Thursday briefing, said that the importation of the import order of Russian oil is ongoing but there still seems to be a problem.
“The importation of the Russian diesel is ongoing. The problem is we don’t have enough depots,” he said.
“But I think government is encouraging the private sector to build depots now because we’re really focusing on energy security,” he added.
Provisional fare increase
“The Board, in its regular meeting, approved tonight a provisional fare increase of P1 for the first four kilometers for PUJs plying NCR, Region 3, and Region 4 routes,” LTFRB member Atty. Aileen Lizada said Wednesday night.
However, Lizada explained that an official order on the increase must come out first before the drivers can charge the additional fare to passengers. According to Lizada, the signed order was expected to be released Thursday afternoon.
The Board on Wednesday came out with the decision of granting a provisional fare increase following hearings on the proposed fare hike of five transport groups namely: Federation of Jeepney Operators and Drivers Association of the Philippines (FEJODAP), Alliance of Concerned Transport Organization (ACTO), Land Transportation Organization of the Philippines (LTOP), Alliance of Transport Operators and Drivers Association of the Philippines (ALTODAP), and Pangkalahatang Sanggunian Manila and Suburb Drivers Assoc. Nationwide Inc. (PASANGMASDA).
In September 2017, the five transport leaders filed a petition with the LTFRB seeking to increase the minimum fare of P8 to P10 citing higher fuel and spare parts prices which they claim to have “adversely affected” the income of the drivers and operators.
Meanwhile, mixed reactions from jeepney drivers and passengers greeted the government’s approval of the P1 provisional fare increase.
Pangkalahatang Sangguniang Manila and Suburb Drivers Association Nationwide Inc. (PASANGMASDA) leader Obet Martin said they appreciate the decision of the Board on the approval of the provisional fare increase.
While they welcomed the government’s move, Martin said they will still proceed with their formal petition of the additional P2.
Martin was among the five transport group leaders who filed a petition to the LTFRB to increase its minimum fare of P8 to P10 last September 2017.
The groups cited higher fuel and spare parts prices which “adversely affect” the income of the drivers and operators.
According to Martin, the P1 fare increase is still a big help to the drivers.
“Kung makakapagsakay ng 350 passengers ang driver, may dagdag na P350 nakita na ang mga drivers. Malaking amount narin para makatulong sa drivers kaysa sa wala (If the driver has 350 passengers in a day, he will have an additional P350. That’s still a big amount that can help the drivers),” Martin said in a phone interview.
The additional minimum fare was also welcomed by some students, adding that the hike was reasonable due to the tax reform program.
For Renalene Nerval, a third year Literature and Accountancy student in De La Salle University in Taft Avenue, Manila, the P1 increase was reasonable.
“The increase was okay for me because it is not that burdensome. It is also needed to compensate the TRAIN law. It is okay for the fare to increase but gradual,” Nerval said.
Meanwhile, Jasper Valdez, who frequently rides a jeepney when travelling to find work from his home in Quezon City to Manila and Makati City said otherwise.
“Para saming mga naghahanap ng trabaho, kahit na sabihin ng iba nakakaunti o maliit na halaga lang ang itataas ng pamasahe sa mga jeepney, malaki pa rin ang magiging epekto nito dahil sa sunud-sunod na pagtaas ng bilihin lalo na at wala pa kaming stable na pinagkukuhanan ng kita (For us jobseekers, even though others would say that the fare increase is only minimal, this would still affect us greatly because of the continuous increases on prices of commodities, especially now that we do not have jobs to support our needs),” he said.
Valdez shared that for him, the P1 increase is still a big deal as he is travelling everyday when applying for work or attending job interviews.
“Hindi naman magbabago ang serbisyo ng mga PUJs, dapat kung talagang magtatas ng pasahe ay may mga kaakibat na pagbabago para protektahan ang mga commuters,” Valdez explained.
Lower fuel price
For Antonio Simangan, or Mang Jun, a jeepney driver for at least 27 years, the P1 increase is not what they needed.
Mang Jun said he is not happy with the increase and what the drivers want is a lower fuel price.
This was what also RJ Javellana, president of the United Filipino Consumers and Commuters said.
Javellana said that the government should target the very cause of the problem in the transportation sector which is the fuel price increases due to the new tax reform law.
He urged transport groups to unite with the consumer and commuters in calling out the government to suspend the excise tax on petroleum products.