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Transport group to seek another jeepney fare hike 

PHILIPPINE STAR/ WALTER BOLLOZOS

By Arjay L. Balinbin, Senior Reporter

A TRANSPORT group said on Thursday that the increase in the minimum fare for traditional jeepneys is still insufficient for operators and drivers to cope with soaring fuel prices, and that the new administration should expect another fare hike appeal.

“Pakunsuwelo de bobo na lang ito (This is just a band-aid solution),” Mar S. Valbuena, chairman of the transport coalition Manibela, said of the increase in the minimum fare for traditional jeepneys to P11 from P9 in all regions starting July 1.

He noted that there has been a significant increase in the price of diesel.

Oil companies on Monday announced another round of hikes, P0.50 per liter for gasoline and P1.65 per liter for diesel. Since the start of 2022, per-liter prices of gasoline, diesel, and kerosene have gone up by P28.70, P41.15, and P37.95, respectively, as of June 14.

Mr. Valbuena said the ideal minimum fare for traditional jeepneys, given the current crisis, is P14, but he acknowledged that this will severely hurt consumers.

“The new administration should come up with a good solution),” he said in Filipino in a phone interview.

The administration of Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr., who took his oath as the 17th president of the Philippines on Thursday, can continue the subsidy program for public utility vehicle operators and drivers, the transport leader said.

He added, however, that the service contracting program should be reviewed and made more inclusive.

The Marcos administration should also put on hold the implementation of the jeepney modernization program due to the crisis, he said.

Starting July 1, the minimum fare for modern jeepneys nationwide will be P13, according to the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB).

Transport groups that petitioned for another fare increase have pointed out that while the transport regulator on June 8 granted a P1 provisional increase to the minimum fare for traditional jeepneys in three regions, increasing it to P10 from P9 for the first four kilometers, the cost of diesel was already P81.25 per liter. The P1 increase took effect in the National Capital Region, Region III (Central Luzon), and IV (Calabarzon).

‘NOT ENOUGH’Transport expert Rene S. Santiago said the latest “increase is not enough to unlock supply.”

“Pampalubag loob (conciliatory gesture); headache is transferred to the next administration,” he said in a phone message to BusinessWorld.

“For public utility jeepneys in the National Capital Region, P15 (is the ideal minimum fare) based on my calculation and current diesel price per liter,” he added.

The LTFRB said in its seven-page decision on the recent petition for jeepney fare increase that it is “mindful of the present economic state of every Filipino brought about by the continuous rise in oil prices in the world market and the reeling effects of the pandemic.”

Terry L. Ridon, convenor of public policy think tank Infrawatch PH, called on Mr. Marcos to expand the fuel subsidies given to the transport sector.

“The current level of subsidies (P6,500 worth of fuel) is clearly not enough for ordinary transport operators to survive,” he said in an e-mailed statement.

He said Mr. Marcos can “trim the fat in previous national budgets, in which there was an inflated focus on intelligence funding.”

“If the President wants more money for social programs, he can basically cut confidential and intelligence funding to a quarter of its current size. For context, funding in these sectors was massively expanded by President Rodrigo R. Duterte,” he added.

Another transport group, the Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Operator Nationwide or PISTON, said the new administration should suspend the implementation of fuel taxes.

There should also be “more government control over fuel retail prices,” PISTON said in a statement.

“That means junking the 1998 Oil Deregulation Law that allowed fuel prices in the country to go unchecked,” it added.

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