Trans­port strike

Cebu Daily News - - OPINION -

If any­thing, a trans­port strike that may oc­cur any­time within this month in Cebu and some parts of Cen­tral Visayas if not across the coun­try, may serve as a good re­minder and even a solid im­pe­tus for the Duterte ad­min­is­tra­tion to re­con­sider its po­si­tion on im­pos­ing ex­cise taxes on fuel prices.

Last Tues­day’s P1 peso in­crease on some fuel prod­ucts may not be much for the priv­i­leged rich few who can af­ford more than one car — okay, they may com­plain a lit­tle but not to the point of march­ing down the streets or at least not yet — but it is painful to the strug­gling pas­sen­ger jeep­ney driver and mostly to the com­muter who had to tighten the belts fur­ther and stretch their bud­gets to new, untested lim­its.

That said, all that tax money col­lected by the gov­ern­ment should go some­where and not just to the pock­ets of the soldiers and the po­lice whom Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte pledged to raise their salaries to turn them away from the lure of drug money.

In fact, a sub­stan­tial part of that tax rev­enue was sup­posed to go to the gov­ern­ment’s “Build, Build, Build” pro­gram that in­cludes mod­ern­iz­ing pub­lic trans­port.

Part of that mod­ern­iza­tion pro­gram is the phase­out of the ag­ing pas­sen­ger jeep­neys that is sup­posed to be com­pleted in March next year. While this is on­go­ing, there is sup­posed to be a fuel sub­sidy pro­gram that is sup­posed to cush­ion the im­pact of high fuel prices for pub­lic util­ity ve­hi­cle (PUV) op­er­a­tors.

That phase­out had been op­posed time and again by the op­er­a­tors, some of whom had called on the gov­ern­ment to give them mod­ern, en­vi­ron­ment-friendly jeep­neys free of charge if they are sup­posed to com­ply with the mass trans­port mod­ern­iza­tion pro­gram.

Bar­ring that op­tion, the jeep­ney op­er­a­tors still in­sist on fil­ing a fare rate in­crease by rea­son­ing that the fuel sub­sidy isn’t even enough for them to buy a mod­ern jeep­ney that is com­pli­ant with gov­ern­ment stan­dards on min­i­miz­ing pol­lu­tion.

Given these con­di­tions it is a no-brainer to see that the big­gest loser in this equa­tion is the com­muter who are not only bur­dened with in­creased taxes but higher fare rates.

There is a cor­re­la­tion be­tween higher fuel prices caused by ex­ces­sive taxes, higher fare rates and the mass trans­port mod­ern­iza­tion pro­gram pur­sued by gov­ern­ment whose ra­tio­nale is that it will ul­ti­mately ben­e­fit the rid­ing pub­lic in the long term.

But in mod­ern­iz­ing pub­lic trans­port, the Duterte ad­min­is­tra­tion should learn when to step on the brakes, fix the vis­i­ble prob­lems such as ex­ces­sive taxes on fuel and then un­der­take pro­grams aimed at eas­ing the tran­si­tion from old modes of pub­lic trans­port to new, more ac­ces­si­ble, more af­ford­able and ef­fec­tive mass trans­port.

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