Cebu transport groups nix fare hike, but seek gov’t, commuters’ help

TRANSPORT groups in Cebu are not keen on asking for an increase in the minimum fare of public utility vehicles (PUVs) amid the high fuel prices, with one group demanding other types of intervention from the government instead.The Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (Piston) Cebu chapter has urged the Cebu City Government and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) Central Visayas to introduce programs and measures that can alleviate the plight of PUV drivers.Some PUV drivers have decided not to operate anymore due to the soaring prices of fuel products, Piston Cebu chairman Greg Perez said Tuesday, June 21, 2022.In what has now become a nearly weekly ritual this year, another round of oil price hikes was implemented Tuesday, with the highest increase in the cost of diesel commonly used by PUVs.In separate announcements Tuesday, Caltex, Cleanfuel, Jetti, Petro Gazz, PTT Philippines, Seaoil and Shell said there would be an increase of P0.80 per liter on gasoline, and P3.10 per liter on diesel prices.Caltex, Seaoil and Shell would also raise kerosene prices by P1.70 per liter.Year-to-date, there has been a net increase of P28.70 per liter in the price of gasoline and P41.15 per liter for diesel. This means a near doubling of the price for diesel and almost 50 percent hike for gas from the start of the year as the prices for these are now above P90 per liter.Not the solutionHowever, Perez said increasing the minimum fare is not the solution since this will be a burden to the commuting public.“Amoa pud gi balanse kung asa kuhaon ug unsay mahitabo sa atong mga sumasakay kung mo submit ta og petition,” said Perez.(We also considered what might happen to commuters if we submit a petition.)On June 9, the LTFRB 7 received a petition for a P2 provisional minimum fare increase for traditional public utility jeepneys (TPUJs) from transport groups in Cebu.If approved, the minimum fare of TPUJs operating in Cebu will increase from P9 to P11.According to Perez, the government should instead suspend the excise tax on fuel products and work on acquiring fuel firms from private individuals.Before the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic, there were about 11,000 TPUJs in Cebu, but according to Perez, not even half of them have returned to the roads.Perez further said that due to the soaring fuel prices, two percent of TPUJ drivers in Cebu have decided not to operate anymore.Going electricMeanwhile, Councilor Nestor Archival said the City Government should pivot to the use of electric-powered vehicles now that fuel prices continue to increase.Archival said he will pass a resolution to the City Council to facilitate the implementation of the project that will start with the city’s government-owned vehicles.“I am going to make a resolution. Then I will reach out to the mayor that this is the time now to make a proactive (solution),” said Archival.With the project, the City could save up to P200 million in fuel procurement and maintenance, Archival said.The councilor added that using electric-powered cars rather than internal combustion engines is a step toward achieving a sustainable transportation sector in the city.Archival further said that solar panels can be installed at the City’s motor pool to provide the required energy for the vehicles. Solar power would be stored in batteries for electricity, so that there would be no more need to connect to the power grids.Taxi flag-downThe Metro Cebu Taxi Operators Association (MCTOA) is also not in favor of increasing the P40 flag-down rate of taxis in Cebu despite the soaring prices of fuel in the country.Richard Cabucos, chairman emeritus of MCTOA and owner of Richielda Taxi, said Tuesday that it would be better if Metro Cebu taxi operators retained the P40 flag-down rate so as not to affect the base fare of commuters.“Tungod aning increase sa gasolina nga wa ta kabawo kanus-a mohunong, useless lang gihapon nang gipangayo nga P20 kay wa man tay mahimo ana. Sunod na sad, naa na say increase, sige lang increase,” he said.(We don’t know when these fuel price hikes will stop, so the P20 increase being asked for will still be useless. After that, there will still be more increases.)Cabucos’ reaction came as the Philippine National Taxi Operators Association, led by its president Bong Suntay, appealed to the LTFRB for a P20 increase in the flag-down rate since the current flag-down rate was set when fuel prices were still at P40-P45 per liter.Cabucos said taxi operators could not just keep asking for an increase in rates as fuel prices go up, as this would just anger the public.He suggested keeping the current flag-down rate and leaving drivers and commuters to agree on how much the commuter would pay.He told SunStar Cebu that taxi drivers and commuters have both been affected by the continuing increase in fuel prices, so they should help each other to make sure that taxi operators survive.“Sa akong bahin, sabotsabot lang gud unta ang pasahero ug ang driver… Sila na lang unta ang mag-igo ug ilang tabangan ang driver nga mo-exist ang ilang industry,” Cabucos added.Energy Undersecretary Gerardo Erguiza Jr. said during a Laging Handa briefing that the weaker peso last week had affected the prices of fuel products this week.“Our multiplier in dollars… you will multiply it per barrel, so there will be an increase in net effect. That’s one reason why it really went up slightly again because your dollar went up,” he added.The peso closed last week at 53.75 to a US dollar, down from around 50.98 at the start of the year.Moreover, the world continues to bear the consequences of a tight petroleum supply amid the Russia-Ukraine conflict.The rising fuel prices have also been attributed to the European Union’s partial ban on imports from Russia and the easing of pandemic restrictions in China. (LMY, SunStar Bacolod)