MANILA, Philippines?In a further blow to the country?s already groaning consumers, public transport officials Sunday announced a provisional or temporary increase in the minimum fare of jeepneys and buses in Metro Manila, Central Luzon and Southern Tagalog.
The new rates will take effect at exactly 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, May 21.
The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) said it approved the new rates to give drivers temporary relief from spiraling fuel prices.
The minimum jeepney fare in these areas will be raised from P7.50 to P8 for the first four kilometers. For ordinary buses, the minimum fare will be increased from P8 to P9, while the minimum fare for air-conditioned buses will be raised to P11.50 from P10.
For provincial routes, ordinary buses may add P0.10 per kilometer while air-conditioned buses may charge P0.25 more per kilometer.
This means provincial regular buses may increase their fare from P8.50 to P9 for the first five kilometers and charge P1.40 for every succeeding kilometer.
The new rates will be in force pending resolution of the fare hike petitions filed by various jeepney and bus groups.
LTFRB Chair Thompson Lantion said in a telephone interview that the board approved the temporary fare increase on Saturday night.
Central Luzon (Region 3) covers Aurora, Bataan, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Tarlac, and Zambales. Region 4, which used to be Southern Tagalog, is currently divided into Region 4A or Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon), and Region 4B or Mimaropa (Occidental Mindoro and Oriental Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, Palawan).
However, Lantion said, there will be no increase on the rates for every succeeding kilometer for both Metro Manila jeepneys and buses.
LTFRB also granted a separate petition filed by bus operators in Sapang Palay, Bulacan. LTFRB has provided a 20-percent discount for all bus passengers en route from Sapang Palay to Baclaran.
Senior citizens, students, and disabled passengers were also granted a 20-percent discount on their fares, Lantion added.
All buses and jeepney operators are required to post the notice for provisional fare increase on their vehicles on Wednesday, he said.
But Lantion clarified that the provisional increase could be withdrawn anytime. ?The important thing is that government is responding with recognizance of the problem and we need a mitigating program to alleviate the problem of continuous oil price increase,? he said.
He added that the agency also considered the riding public. ?We also have to protect the public interest,? Lantion said.
Meanwhile, he said that the agency was expecting to provide the additional P2 per liter government subsidy on fuel to all transport groups as soon as possible.
Taxis not included
Lantion said taxis were not included in the temporary fare increase but taxi drivers could avail themselves of subsidies for fuel and take part in a government program allowing poor households to buy National Food Authority rice at P18.25 a kilo.
?Only petitions submitted 15 days or earlier were considered in discussions for a provisional fare hike,? he said. ?Taxis just submitted their petition on Thursday, so we would be hearing their petition on June 26.?
Taxi operators are seeking permission to add P10 to the total metered bill per trip.
The militant transport group Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide (Piston) branded the fare increase a mere stop-gap measure and said it would not address the drivers? and the public?s main problem of nonstop oil price increases.
Piston secretary general George San Mateo said the drivers would not benefit from the provisional fare increase because the amount would go straight to the pockets of the oil companies.
San Mateo said the drivers and the public would have gotten more relief if the government had heeded the drivers group?s plea to scrap the 12-percent expanded value-added tax (E-VAT) on oil and the Oil Deregulation Law, which they claimed allowed oil companies to raise their prices with impunity.
Such actions, he added, would have led to a rollback in prices of gasoline, diesel and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG).
San Mateo warned of more transport strikes in the future, saying continued oil price increases were a ?ticking time bomb.?
?Unless the increase in oil prices ? stops and unless the government stops its complicity with the big oil cartel, Piston and its allies will continue their protests until the government acts on the drivers? and people?s call to the remove the E-VAT on oil, stop the price increases and junk the Oil Deregulation Law,? he said in a statement.
The Piston official also lamented that the fare hike would only add to the burden of passengers who continued to grapple with the rising prices of basic goods, despite the grant of a P20 daily wage increase recently.
The moderate Pangkalahatang Sanggunian Manila & Suburbs Drivers Association Nationwide Inc. (Pasang-Masda) welcomed the provisional fare increase as ?a temporary relief to jeepney drivers? who would gain an additional P200 in their income.
Pasang-Masda president Roberto Martin stressed, however, that drivers were still pushing for approval of their pending petitions. His group wants a minimum fare of P9 from P7.50 plus an additional P0.50 per succeeding kilometer to P1.75.
Jeepney groups allied with the party-list 1-Utak, including Fejodap, the largest jeepney organization in the country, are asking for the same increase.
Piston is seeking a fare increase of P1 for the first four kilometers and P0.25 per succeeding kilometer.
The Provincial Bus Operators Association of the Philippines (PBOAP), a member of transport party-list group 1-Utak, welcomed the temporary fare increase for buses.
PBOAP president Homer Mercado said the fare increase at least gave operators and drivers some relief while their petitions were being heard.
The group wants ordinary provincial buses to charge their passengers P12 for the first 5 km plus P1.60 per succeeding km. Currently, ordinary provincial buses charge P8.50 for the first 5 km plus P1.30 for every succeeding km.
Mercado said the PBOAP would still call for a permanent fare increase with the LTFRB.
Metro Manila bus groups, led by the Integrated Metro Bus Operators Association (IMBOA), want ordinary Metro buses to charge their passengers P10.50 for the first 5 km, plus P2.10 per succeeding kilometer thereafter. They also want a provisional increase of P1 for the first 5 km while their main petition is pending.
For air-conditioned buses, the bus groups want a P2 provisional increase.
Currently, ordinary metro buses charge P8 for the first 5 km plus P1.75 for every succeeding kilometer thereafter.
Among Metro and provincial buses, air-conditioned units charge about 20 percent higher than their ordinary counterparts, according to prevailing regulations.
Metro Manila commuters interviewed by the Philippine Daily Inquirer said they would just bear the additional fare but would walk short distances to save on daily expenses.
Gene Bernabe, a resident of Cavite province who works in Makati City, said: ?I understand why they need to impose the fare hike. With the oil price hikes, drivers would lose income if they didn?t raise the fare ? I would just walk if the distance is short. [It?s] a little sacrifice to save on expenses and also a chance to get some exercise.?
Benedict Nisperos, a graduate student, said: ?It?s rainy season so I?d rather ride than be drenched in the rain. But walking is still an option? With reports from Leila B. Salaverria and Abigail Kwok, INQUIRER.net