UniversityOn rising fares and oil prices: The woes of public transportation
On rising fares and oil prices: The woes of public transportation

Last October 17, the Land Transportation and Franchising Regulatory Board (LTFRB) approved a petition by transport groups to increase the minimum fare from the previously set P8 to P10. The LTFRB had previously approved a provisional increase for jeepney fares last July, raising the minimum fare to P9, in response to a petition filed by transport groups last September 2017 to up the minimum fare to P10.

As of December 3, provisional jeepney fare was again lowered to P9 for the National Capital Region and Regions III and IV due to a recent dip in fuel prices.

Increased minimum fare
In October, oil companies raised prices for fuel and petroleum products, pushing the price of diesel by P1.45 per liter and gasoline by P1.00 per liter.

Joey Papio, a jeepney driver plying routes along Escoda, notes the decrease in the number of his passengers as well as an increase in those who don’t pay their fare, Noon po konti, pero ngayon mas dumadami. Tsaka parang ‘yung iba ayaw na sumakay. Gusto na lang maglakad dahil sa magkano kasi pamasahe, sampung piso na.”

(Before, just a few [don’t pay the fare], but now, there are more of them. And the others, they don’t want to ride [the jeep]. They want to walk instead because of how much the fare is, [which is] ten pesos.)

Papio laments that life continues to be hard for a jeepney driver. “Para sa isang jeepney driver, hindi sapat para sa pamilya yung kinikita. Tatlo anak mo, apat anak mo, tapos nag-aaral; nangungupahan ka, nagbabayad ka ng ilaw at tubig. Hindi kakayanin ng isang jeepney driver,” he expresses.

(For a jeepney driver, the money earned is not enough for the family. You have three, four kids, and they’re all studying; you’re paying for rent; you’re paying for electricity and water. A jeepney driver will not survive.)

The drivers themselves share that they, too, feel the effects of the fare hike during their commute. Enrique Victoria, Vice President of the transport group Pandas-Pejodap, shares that while he was in favor of the increase in rates, the net effect for them would be negligible. Kami, ‘pag pumunta sa ibang lugar, namamasahe rin kami, so wala ring kwenta yung pagtaas ng pamasahe,” he explains.

(When we go to other places, we also pay the same fare as commuters, so the fare hike is pointless.)


Public transport modernization
In 2017, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) launched the Public Utility Vehicle (PUV) Modernization program, aiming to replace public utility vehicles such as buses and jeepneys that are over 15 years old with their modern versions. The Land Bank of the Philippines estimated that the modern jeepneys would cost P1.4-million to P1.6-million per unit.

Victoria criticizes the modernization plan, citing the lack of support given to jeepney drivers. “Wala naman talagang ginagawa ang gobyerno para sa amin. ‘Yung modernization, pinipilit na ipasa na wala naman pala silang badyet para diyan, he argues.

(The government does nothing for us. They are forcing to pass that modernization [initiative], which turned out to not have any budget allocation.)

The plan has been criticized by transport groups, claiming that it will ruin thousands of drivers and operators who cannot afford the new vehicles out of their business.

Victoria is one of those who fear that they would lose their livelihood to the new program. “‘Nung um-attend nga ako ng Senate hearing, maraming nangangamba, lalo na ‘yung mga jeepney [drivers] ‘saka jeepney [operators]kasi mawawalan sila ng hanapbuhay,” he narrates.

(When I attended the Senate hearing, a lot of us were scared, especially the jeepney drivers and the jeepney operators because they may end up losing their livelihood.)

Aside from PUV modernization, the DOTr is also continuing other projects aiming to improve public transportation. Among these is the installation of the so-called “Dalian trains” purchased during Former President Noynoy Aquino’s administration for the Metro Railway Transit (MRT) Line 3, and the inauguration of the Parañaque Integrated Terminal Exchange last November 5 as part of the Build, Build, Build program of the current administration.

The DOTR also aims to implement and launch other projects—all under the Build, Build, Build program—such as two lines of the Metro Manila Bus Rapid Transit, the Taguig Integrated Terminal Exchange, and the Mega Manila Subway.

Inflation, oil prices, wage hike
In a report released by the Department of Finance DOF last October 31, the cost of road transport services was also raised due to the increase in the domestic price of petroleum products. According to the department’s analysis, the excise tax implemented under the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law contributed a 4.6 percent increase of product prices.

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) announced in October that the inflation rate reached 6.2 percent for the third quarter of 2018. In the previous quarter, the inflation rate had only reached 4.8 percent.

Victoria blames TRAIN for the increase in fuel price, complaining that the price of goods rose before the fare. In light of the successive rollbacks in fuel prices over the past weeks, he wishes for the government to respond to the impact of inflation and to decrease the costs for petrol and diesel to alleviate the needs of jeepney drivers. “Bigyan ng trabaho ‘yung walang trabaho. Pangalawa, babaan ‘yung presyo ng mga bilihin. Babaan din yung presyo ng petrolyo; siguro makakasapat na ‘yun,” he clamors.

([First,] give jobs to those who don’t have jobs. Second, lower the price of goods. [Lastly,] lower also the price of fuel; that should be enough.)

It remains to be seen, however, how oil prices will be affected if and when the fuel excise tax increase of P2 per liter takes effect in 2019.

In early November, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III also announced that a P25 minimum wage hike was approved for Metro Manila workers. The minimum wage previously stood at P512. Commuter and labor groups criticized the hike, calling it an insult in the face of rising prices and fare hikes, demanding removal of the fuel excise tax instead.

Costs for students
Apart from the jeepney drivers, everyday commuters are the ones directly affected by the price hike. Contrary to popular belief, a number of DLSU students commute going to the University on a daily basis, making what seems to be a small inconvenience into a big factor in student life.

For Jose Paras (IV, BSA) who has been commuting from Quezon City to Taft for the past four years, the price hike causes him to change the way he budgets his daily expenses. “I take the LRT (Manila Light Rail Transit System) and ride the jeep everyday because it’s cheaper. Two pesos doesn’t seem big, but if you compute for the total cost of everything at the end of the month, there’s a [large] amount of deficit,” he asserts.

Andre Castillo (III, BS-MKT), meanwhile, takes a jeepney and the LRT going to and from school. He feels dismayed with the fare increase but says that the state of jeepney drivers must also be taken into consideration. “I think it is crazy that they increased the prices, but it is kind of understandable since it’s hard to make a living,” he expresses. He is also disappointed with the lack of improvements with the LRT system, saying that, “Nothing has changed, really. It is still stressful when going home.”

According to Alex Rocha (III, AB-ISE) who takes regularly commutes through carpooling, his commute has gotten worse over the recent months, noting that commuters lining up add to the congestion. “It has gotten a lot more hectic with more commuters trying to get a ride, as well as the price that keeps increasing,” he laments.

With reports from Deo Cruzada