Wenceslao: Hike in fare, etc.

THOSE who say the new tax imposition—actually but the first tranche—called Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) won’t affect ordinary consumers much are dreaming. President Rodrigo Duterte signed TRAIN into law last month and its effect will be felt starting this month. Consider the imposition this year of of P2.50 per liter of excise tax on diesel used mostly by public utility jeepneys.

Yesterday, the transport group Pasang Masda announced that it will file a petition next week with the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) to raise to P12 the minimum fair of jeepneys. In Metro Manila, the minimum fair for jeepneys is P8. Pasang Masda has a pending petition to raise the minimum fare to P10. The additional P2 will be put in an addendum to the earlier petition. That’s a hefty rise of P4 that will eat into savings from lower income taxes.

TRAIN has other tax impositions that would affect the people in a number of ways, but I think the excise tax on oil products would be the first whammy we all would be feeling early this year, which is also the year when the Department of Transportation (DOTr) starts the three-year transition period of its jeepney modernization program meant to drive out old passenger jeepneys from the streets.

For this month, the DOTr is set to roll out 500 electric jeepneys or e-jeepneys, which are among the designated replacements for passenger jeepneys that are already 15 years and older. “What we are looking at is that they come out this year, they come out this month. You will still have the old jeepneys, let the people decide,” DOTr Undersecretary for Roads Thomas Orbos told CNN Philippines.

Call the three-year transition period a slow kill, or to paraphrase the line of a song, it’s like killing the jeepney operators and drivers slowly. Those e-jeepneys, plus the accessories, would cost operators a fortune, which would mean that only the moneyed would survive in the end in this transport business. Jeepney operators and drivers are protesting, but the move has gotten the president’s nod.

But I like Orbos’s point about comparison. As the late veteran journalist Abe Licayan would often say, “let us to see.” Those e-jeepneys are new so old jeepneys could not compare with their look and engine efficiency. But I am more interested in how it would survive the jungle that are this country’s roads. For example, how many of the e-jeepneys that would be rolled out this month would still be functioning when the three-year transition period of the program ends in 2020?

I think the transport sector would not be the only one that would be making noise out there on the streets this year. There is a push now to speed up the realization of the federal system dream of the Duterte administration. Expect the decibel of the noise on this issue to spike up also. It’s not only the pros that would determine the federalist outcome; so too the antis.

If 2017 was tumultuous for this country, expect 2018 to be more so because of the many developments that, like a train, speeding fast ahead. Again, the integrity of Philippine society will be severely tested.
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