Philippine Daily Inquirer


- By Cathrine Gon­za­les and Krixia Sub­ing­sub­ing @Team_In­quirer

In­stead of lis­ten­ing to driv­ers’ and op­er­a­tors’ sug­ges­tions on how to deal with ris­ing fuel prices, the gov­ern­ment dumped the prob­lem on com­muters by al­low­ing an in­crease in fares, the leader of the coun­try’s largest trans­port group said on Thurs­day.

The Land Trans­porta­tion Fran­chis­ing and Reg­u­la­tory Board (LTFRB) ap­proved on Wed­nes­day night a P1 pro­vi­sional in­crease on the min­i­mum fare for jeep­neys ply­ing routes in Metro Manila, Cen­tral Lu­zon and Cal­abar­zon.

Once the LTFRB or­der is signed—ex­pected late Thurs­day—jeep­neys could charge P9 for the first 4 kilo­me­ters.

The cur­rent min­i­mum fare is P8.

“The gov­ern­ment passed the prob­lem of high oil prices to poor commu-

ters,” Ge­orge San Ma­teo, pres­i­dent of Pi­nagkaisa­hang Sama­han ng mga Tsu­per at Operey­tor Na­tion­wide (Pis­ton), said on Thurs­day.

The pub­lic as scape­goat

“It’s sad, be­cause they treated the com­muters like a scape­goat,” he said.

San Ma­teo said Pis­ton had sug­gested to the gov­ern­ment to sus­pend the en­force­ment of the Tax Re­form for Ac­cel­er­a­tion and In­clu­sion (TRAIN) Act to lower fu- el prices and avoid a raise in fares.

“The prob­lem is, the gov­ern­ment does not want to lis­ten. There are many pos­si­ble so­lu­tions and sus­pend­ing the en­force­ment of the TRAIN law is one of them. It is re­ally the cause of the peo­ple’s present eco­nomic dif­fi­cul­ties,” he said.

The TRAIN law took ef­fect on Jan. 1. It raised the ceil­ing on tax-ex­empt in­come but im­posed higher taxes on oil prod­ucts and other goods, am­pli­fy­ing the ef­fects of firmer global oil prices in re­cent months.

A chain re­ac­tion trig­gered by the en­force­ment of the law pushed in­fla­tion to 5.2 per­cent in June, the fastest in more than five months.

San Ma­teo ap­pealed to com­muters not to blame jeep­ney driv­ers for the fare hike.

“Let’s not blame the jeep­ney driv­ers. Blame this on the gov­ern­ment’s poli­cies,” he said.

Blame world oil prices

Mala­cañang, how­ever, blamed the fare hike on ris­ing world oil prices.

“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,” pres­i­den­tial spokesper­son Harry Roque told re­porters.

Com­muters de­nounced the LTFRB de­ci­sion.

“As if the peo­ple aren’t al­ready spend­ing too much be­cause of TRAIN,” said Univer­sity of Santo To­mas lit­er­a­ture ma­jor Ce­line Gar­cia.

“Ba­sic goods have be­come ex­pen­sive. Now fare have also in­creased,” Gar­cia, who is a work­ing stu­dent, said.

“I en­joy stu­dent dis­counts and the fare hike means I have to pay P8 now. Ev­ery peso counts,” she said.

Ni­co­las Celo, a ju­nior high school stu­dent, ex­pressed dis­may at the fare hike, which would af­fect his daily al­lowance.

But he con­ceded that jeep­ney driv­ers were bur­dened with high fuel prices.

“We also need to buckle down [for them],” he said.

In­nah Par­di­nan, whoworks in ad­ver­tis­ing and com­mutes between Manila and Que­zon City ev­ery day, said the jeep­ney fare hike might force her to con­sider other op­tions, like the UVEx­press, which costs a few pesos more but is more con­ve­nient.

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