LTFRB 7: No calls for fare reduction despite higher passenger loads

DESPITE most traditional public utility jeepneys (TPUJ) and modern public utility vehicles now operating at maximum capacity, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) 7 has not received any petition to return to the regular fare for these modes of public transport in Central Visayas.

LTFRB 7 Director Eduardo Montealto Jr. said there has been no appeal coming from any sector or group to reduce the fare.

The fare matrix followed right now by jeepney and bus drivers is standardized coming from the central office and is implemented nationwide.

“If there are petitions, we will be entertaining them, but we need to submit them to our central office,” Montealto told SunStar Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021.

Due to the continuing increase in fuel prices and limited passenger capacity, Montealto said the commuting public might understand the struggles of drivers and operators.

Fares in the cities of Cebu, Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu had first been jacked up in June 2020 when non-air-conditioned buses began charging passengers P11 instead of the pre-pandemic P9 for the first five kilometers, air-conditioned buses charged P13 for the first five kilometers plus P2.20 instead of P1.75 per succeeding kilometer, while modern jeepneys charged P11 for the first four kilometers from the pre-pandemic P9.50.

Montealto said then that the higher fares were justified by the requirements that the operators and drivers had to comply with under general community quarantine, such as the use of a thermal scanner, masks for drivers and conductors, a foot bath before boarding the bus, regular disinfection and handwashing facilities in terminals, as well as the 50 percent maximum capacity for buses.

However, some public transport operators are now packing their vehicles with passengers even if LTFRB Memorandum Circular 2021-064 issued last Nov. 2, which allowed the removal of plastic barriers from public transport, allowed the use of only 70 percent of the vehicle’s maximum capacity.

Montealto said public transport drivers carrying more passengers than what is set by the guidelines shall be apprehended and required to pay a fine of P5,000.

“We’ve already apprehended many who were loading at full capacity. They just take their chances if there’s no enforcer,” Montealto said.

Last week, the LTFRB 7 said that from Nov. 8-10, it had apprehended five TPUJ drivers for not following the prescribed seating capacity.

On the matter of fare reduction, transport group Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (Piston) Cebu chapter chairman Gregory Perez said if the government can reduce the price of fuel and allow more traditional jeepneys to ply their routes, they will support any petition to return the minimum fare to its pre-pandemic level.

TPUJs now charge P10 from the pre-pandemic fare of P8.

Asked about jeepneys operating at full capacity and sometimes overloading, Perez said it is because there is a huge demand for public transport and the number of public utility vehicles cannot meet the demand.

“Padaganon balik tanan mga jeeps nato para naay kasakyan ang mga pasahero hilabi na during rush hour,” Perez said. (Let all jeepneys return to the streets so that passengers can get a ride, especially during rush hour.)

Perez estimates that only about 1,000 TPUJs are plying the roads of the entire Cebu today compared to 5,000 units before the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic began in March 2020.

Piston Cebu has a membership of 500 drivers and 100 operators.

Ma. Rhozel Dejos, a commuter from Talisay City, said she is okay with the current fare since there have also been hikes in the prices of gasoline.

“Kung mabalik na sila og 100 percent capacity, okay ra ma menosan ang plite,” Dejos added. (If they return to 100 percent capacity, though, it would be okay to reduce the fare.) (WITH CTL)