Jeepney drivers say oil price increases and fare hikes worsen the conditions of drivers even more because they are also affected by spikes in prices of basic commodities resulting from these increases.
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – “The meager one peso ($.02) fare increase did not help. It only goes to oil companies,” said Geniano Sotera, 54, a jeepney driver for 33 years.
Plying the route from Alabang to Muntinlupa City proper, Sotera is on the road as early as 5 a.m. and would go home at 6 p.m. His take home income, however, is not enough to buy a decent meal for his wife and two children.
Sotera earns $4.6 to $6.9 a day. The biggest chunk that is being taken from his daily earnings is spent on diesel amounting to $20.93. The current pump price of diesel is P46.65 or $ 1.04 per liter. His boundary, or the amount he remits to the jeepney operator, is $11.62. He also has to allocate at least $3.48 for his breakfast, lunch and snacks. “When the diesel was only $0.51 to $0.69 and the fare is only $0.16, I only spent $13.95 for diesel,” Sotera recalled.
Sotera believes that another fare increase is not the solution to the problem. He said the price of oil products should be regulated. “We know that when the prices of oil products increase, the prices of basic commodities also increase and the poor gets poorer,” Sotera said.
Geniano Sotera, a jeepney driver for 33 years, calls on government to regulate oil prices. (Photo by Anne Marxze D. Umil / bulatlat.com)
Since January, oil prices have increased nine times pushing the average price of unleaded gasoline to $1.25, diesel to $1.04, and kerosene to $1.24 in Metro Manila, according to Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (Piston).
To earn more, Sotera needs to work longer but 13 hours on the road could net only $4.6 for his family. He earns at the most $6.9 if traffic is not bad and classes in schools are still ongoing.
Sotera said the recent one peso ($.02) fare hike did not give him and his family comfort since prices of basic commodities also increased. Even as Sotera’s operator did not increase the boundary and Sotera does not pass through the South Luzon Express Way, which increased its toll fees, his income is just not enough.
“Before we were still able to eat meat, now my wife can only buy vegetables and sometimes fish. Especially when we have to tighten our belt because we have to pay for our electric bill, we can only eat a can of sardines,” Sotera said.
He also said because his jeepney is old, it often breaks down and has to be in the repair shop for about a day or a week. The operator of the jeepney spends a thousand pesos to $232 if the jeep needs a major repair. “When the jeepney needs repairs and stuck for a day or two, then we earn nothing,” said Sotera.
Regulate Oil Prices
“When the price of oil increases in the world market, the pump prices here in the Philippines also immediately increases. But whenever oil companies implement price roll backs, because the prices of oil products in the world market decreases, it is always delayed and the reduction is always a pittance. Pump prices go up by a peso or at the minimum fifty centavos but price rollbacks are always in centavos. It’s really unfair,” he said.
In a statement, Edil Gonzaga, secretary general of Transmision-Piston of Southern Mindanao Region said implementing fare increases is not the solution to the hardships faced by small drivers and operators. “This is merely a band-aid solution to the disease best cured by a decisive shift in policies. We want a permanent or suitable solution.”
Gonzaga added that oil price increases and fare increases worsen the conditions of drivers who are also affected by price hikes of basic commodities.
In Congress, progressive party-list Bayan Muna filed House Bill 4355, An Act Regulating the Downstream Petroleum Industry, Repealing Republic Act No. 8479 or the Downstream Oil Industry Deregulation Act of 1998. The bill aims to regulate and stabilize oil prices, centralize the procurement of oil and petroleum products, and bring back government participation in the oil industry through the buy-back of Petron Corporation.
The Anakpawis Partylist, on the other hand, filed House Bill 4317, an Act Repealing Republic Act No. 8479 or the Downstream Oil Industry Deregulation Act of 1998.
Sotera said that during the administration of Ferdinand Marcos, there existed the Oil Industry Commission which was tasked to regulate the oil industry and to ensure adequate supply of petroleum products at reasonable prices. “Oil companies could not just increase prices then; it had to go through a hearing. Now it was abolished, then there is the Oil Deregulation Law which allows oil companies to increase oil prices without seeking approval.”
Sotera said that to have meaningful change, the people should unite and fight for what is right. Today, drivers under Piston hold protest actions against the series of oil price hikes.
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