MANILA, Philippines—The government on Tuesday approved a provisional 50-centavo increase in jeepney fares on the same day that oil firms raised anew their prices.
Effective Wednesday, minimum fares for jeepneys will be adjusted to P8.50 from P8, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) said in a decision.
The fare increase will cover all areas of the country except for Regions 1 (Ilocos), 11 (Davao), 12 (Caraga) and 13 (Socsargen), and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
Oil companies raised prices of premium gasoline by 70 centavos a liter and of regular gasoline, diesel and kerosene by 60 centavos a liter.
This was the 10th time oil firms raised prices of petroleum products in the first three months of the year. They had cut prices on three occasions since January.
Before the latest round of adjustments, the prices of unleaded gasoline averaged P58.45 a liter and diesel, P48.70 a liter. Prices of kerosene ranged from P52.71 to P59.64 a liter.
Improved US economy
As of March 19, the year-to-date net increase for gasoline and diesel stood at P5.85 a liter, and P3.20 a liter, respectively.
The Department of Energy said the series of oil price increases could be attributed to an improving US economy, which is expected to further boost demand for fuel supplies, and to fears arising from tensions over Iran’s nuclear program, which could lead to global supply disruptions.
As of March 19, Dubai crude stood at $124 a barrel. Prices of gasoline based on the Mean of Platts Singapore (MOPS) benchmark for petroleum products in the Philippines stood at $138 a barrel, while MOPS-based diesel prices reached $139 a barrel.
The LTFRB said the jeepney fare increase would be taken back once diesel prices return to about P45 from the current P48 per liter.
“While the board recognizes the plight of the Filipino people in this time of crisis, it cannot be insensitive to the present clamor of stakeholders in public land transportation services for necessary action for fare rates,” the LTFRB said in a decision.
“Thus, the board had judiciously balanced the rights of the riding public … vis-à-vis the right of grantees of certificates of public convenience to a reasonable return of investment,” it said.
The decision was signed by LTFRB Chair Jaime Jacob and board member Samuel Garcia. Another board member Manuel Iway filed a dissenting opinion, saying that without financial statements to back up their claims, transport groups could not sufficiently prove the necessity of the fare increase.
Earlier, transport groups, led by 1-United Transport Koalisyon, asked the LTFRB for authority to raise fares by as much as P2.
However, the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) said a 50-centavo adjustment that would bring fares back to their 2009 levels was more appropriate.
“Fares were at P8.50 when the price of diesel was P52 per liter. Today, it’s just P48 per liter but the adjustment was still approved because the increase in prices of different spare parts was also taken into account,” said Transportation Secretary Mar Roxas.
If and when the price of diesel goes back to around P45 per liter from the current P48, minimum jeepney fares would be brought back down to P8 for the first four kilometers, both Roxas and Jacob said.
Vigor Mendoza, 1-Utak chair, welcomed the increase in fares, but said this was nothing but a temporary relief for drivers and operators.
“We need more permanent solutions. If we can get that, we won’t even need to hike fares,” Mendoza said.
He said the government should fast-track its evaluation of proposals to provide financing for the conversion of jeepney engines so they can run on cheaper liquefied petroleum gas and other alternative fuels.
He said authorities should also crack down on “colorum” or unregistered public utility vehicles and other forms of “on-the-ground corruption” such as traffic enforcers who collect “kotong” or bribes.
LRT, MRT fares
Roxas also hinted at plans to raise fares at the Light Rail Transit (LRT) and Metro Rail Transit (MRT) to reduce government subsidies on the train lines.
“Our budget can still subsidize the MRT’s operations, but those resources are not inexhaustible,” he said.
Roxas declined to give a definite timetable on the fare hike, but assured commuters that they would be given proper notice “so they could adjust their budgets.”
He said the government would make sure that using the MRT and LRT would stay cheaper than using other forms of mass transport like buses.
Originally posted: 9:05 pm | Tuesday, March 20th, 2012