‘No matrix, no additional fare’

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Wednesday, March 21, 2012


THE 50-centavo fare increase on public utility jeepneys (PUJs) took effect Wednesday but some passengers refused to pay the required fare unless drivers show off the approved matrix.

The increase has also drawn mixed reactions from the commuting public.

Michelle, a mother of four, said she wouldn’t pay for the additional 50 centavos unless a fare matrix is ably displayed inside the PUJ.

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She said though considered small, 50 centavos can make a long way especially if commuters would take multiple rides in a day.

“Just like me, I take three rides in going to my office. That would be an additional P3 to my office and back. Yes, it’s small but if we are going to add the six day’s worth of additional fare, it would definitely make a difference,” she said.

cagayan-de-oro-commuters-2012-03-22
CAGAYAN DE ORO. Some commuters prefer to ride in ‘trisikads’, which charge only P5 per person, while fares in public utility jeepneys are now pegged at P8. (Joey P. Nacalaban)


The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) has yet to release any fare matrix to PUJs.

Meanwhile, some people criticized the increase while others empathized with the jeepney drivers.

Philip June Sumaylo, a researcher, said the fare increase is a burden for the public because the salaries of the workers have not increased.

“The poor becomes more poorer,” Sumaylo said.

Cris Eldridge Valdehueza, a licensed engineer, said the fare increase would be too hard for Cagayan de Oro.

“We have just risen from the devastation brought by typhoon Sendong and now, another burden is added to us. The prices of fuel had also increased. The government should do something,” Valdehueza said.

Tito Mora, chairperson of Save CDO Now Movement, also said they find the increase a burden to the commuting public.

But Vic Atilano, a choir conductor, said he pities the PUJ drivers.

“Although there is an increase in fare, the rentals for the jeepneys also increased along with the fuel prices,” Atilano said.

Michael Montejo, also a researcher, said the increase is just right since the prices of fuel are high.

However, he said the salaries of workers should also increase to go along with the high deductions in income tax and fare rate.

But even with this, government employee Erwin Casicas said the people have no choice but to consider the increase.

“The drivers are humans too. They also need the basic needs for food, shelter and clothing and we need to improve their buying power in the midst of the rising prices brought about by the increase in fuel pump prices,” Casicas said.

With this, he proposed to revisit the bill that former Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri sponsored on biofuel.

“It’s high time that we consider this because other countries like Brazil and Argentina have embraced biofuel,” he said.

Casicas also urged the lowering of the value-added tax (VAT).

On Tuesday, the LTFRB granted the request of transport groups for a 50-centavo provisional fare hike in PUJs in the National Capital Region (NCR) and select parts of the country.

LTFRB chairman Jaime Jacob said the increase, which is effective immediately, would only be implemented for the first four kilometers of the jeepney’s route and there would be no increase in the succeeding kilometers.

PUJ services operating in NCR, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, Calabrazon, Mimaropa and Bicol are provisionally authorized to increase the fare. The provisional fare for the first kilometers now is P8.50.

Similar increase was also granted to PUJs operating in Western Visayas, Central Visayas, Eastern Visayas, Zamboanga Peninsula and Northern Mindanao, making the minimum fare P8.

Jacob said PUJs in Ilocos have no provisional fare increase since they have an existing P8.50 authorized fare for the first four kilometers while the rest not included in the order have no pending petition for fare increase.

“All other regions which have no pending petition for fare increase and prayers for provisional increase shall have no fare adjustment. Their existing authorized fare shall remain,” he added.

The provisional authority was issued while the board weighs the petition for a fare rate increase of P2 for the minimum fare and 35 centavos per succeeding kilometer (from the existing P1.40 to P1.75). A public hearing has yet to be scheduled.

But jeepneys will be required to roll back the minimum fare once diesel prices go back to P45 per liter.

The petition for the provisional fare hike was filed by transport groups Federation of Jeepney Operators and Drivers Association of the Philippines, the Alliance of Concerned Transport Operators, Pangkalahatang Sanggunian Manila and Suburbs Drivers Association, 1-Utak and Liga ng Transportasyon at Opereytors sa Pilipinas.

In Davao Region, a militant transport group urged the public on Tuesday to just accept the newly approved 50-centavo provisional jeepney fare increase.

Edil Gonzaga, Transmission-Piston in Southern Mindanao secretary-general, said the move is an "economic relief" for drivers amid rising cost of diesel and vehicle spare parts.

Gonzaga said the minimum fare adjustment, from P8 to P8.50, is just reasonable as oil companies have continued to increase prices of diesel.

"The public have to accept the fare increase and should continue to convince the government to scrap the 12-percent Evat (extended value added tax) instead," he said.

Gonzaga added the provisional fare hike must be implemented nationwide.

He said transport groups have long petitioned for the increase as they can no longer cope with the rising cost of fuel and spare parts.

But the LTRFB also reminded drivers and operators to give the 20-percent discount to senior citizens upon presentation of their senior citizen identification cards, and to students during school days.

Transportation Secretary Manuel Roxas earlier justified the 50-centavo provisional fare hike on PUJ, saying the government was just balancing the need of the sectors affected.

The LTFRB conducted public hearings on the petition for fare rate increase last December 8, 2011 and an executive session last January 17, 2012.

In the December 8 hearing, the National Council for Commuter Protection Inc., Commuters and Consumers Advocates of the Philippines, Gabriela Inc. and Antonio Baltazar opposed the petition.

In the January 17 executive session, the board agreed that any petition for rate adjustment would create a domino effect on the prices of basic commodities.

However, the LTFRB said that while it recognizes the plight of Filipino commuters, it cannot be insensitive to the clamor of stakeholders in public land transportation services.

But LTFRB Board Member Manuel Iway said the approval of a provisional fare increase of P0.50 is quite unjustified and unnecessary.

Iway said the petitioners failed to present during their hearings financial statements, projections and studies showing possible losses from fuel price hikes and the possible margin of profit, which he added should be within the 12 percent allowable limit under the new and revised rates, as well as documents that could prove the alleged increase in spare parts.

“A month and three hearings have passed and yet no such documents or shred of proof has been presented, giving rise to the presumption that petitioners have no documents to prove their self-serving allegations of the alleged increase,” Iway said in his dissenting opinion.

Considering how fare hikes ultimately burden the people in this country, he said it behooves the petitioners to back their claims with solid evidence.

“As petitioners have not presented any proof of their self-serving claim by the time this provisional fare increase was granted, it is clear such grant is unjustified,” Iway said.

In addition, Iway said the granting of the provisional fare increase is unnecessary because the government has tried to ease their plight through the Pantawid Pasada Program, where each legitimate driver is given P1,200 for gasoline allowance. (With Terry Betonio/Sun.Star Davao/Sun.Star Cebu)

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on March 22, 2012.

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