“No matter what we do, it seems that it is still not enough.”
By LIZST ABELLO and DANIEL ASIDO
PEÑARANDA, Nueva Ecija – Diosdado Mesa, 66, has been plying the roads of Metro Manila as a jeepney driver since the 1980s. But he considers these days as the hardest as he works day and night to put food on the table.
“Since the spike in the oil prices, we could hardly earn anything,” Mesa told Bulatlat in an interview.
In the past months, prices of oil and other basic necessities have continued to increase. This has been attributed to the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, with the former being slapped with economic sanctions by various countries while demands for oil continue to increase.
The country’s transportation department has recently released a P6,500 ($122) fuel subsidy to some 136,000 jeepney drivers in March – accounting for more than half of the 250,000 registered jeepney drivers in the Philippines. Drivers, however, assailed that they did not benefit from this as the funds were handed to jeepney operators, not to them.
Meanwhile, President Duterte rejected earlier calls to suspend the excise tax on fuel products while allowing a temporary fare increase for public utility vehicles for both traditional and modern jeepneys in Metro Manila, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, and Mimaropa.
“I have not received any subsidy from LTFRB,” Mesa said, referring to the Land Transportation Franchise and Regulatory Board,
From a three-wheel perspective
Jun, not his real name, 53, a Bayan Toda member in Peñaranda, Nueva Ecija, said he did expect to receive government subsidy as prices of oil continue to increase.
Life has been difficult for many tricycle drivers in Peñaranda as they reel both from the impacts of COVID-19 and the oil prices. On a lucky day, Jun said he can take home at least P100 ($2) to P200 ($3.75).
“I doubt if that subsidy will reach us. It’s 50-50,” he quipped, “I would want to receive it but the only question is when.”
Jun said that while they need to earn more to make ends meet, tricycle drivers do not want to pass the burden to their commuters.
Different local governments have approved the fare increase for tricycle drivers including the cities of Muntinlupa and Valenzuela. The local government of Iloilo City also increased fares for the first time in 20 years.
“No matter what we do, it seems that it is still not enough,” Jun said.
Commuters not spared
For commuters like student Jamaica Marciano from Laguna, a more comprehensive intervention should be done by the government as oil price hikes do not only affect drivers but the commuting public as well.
So far, among the many issues that continue to aggravate the present situation is the government’s plan to modernize the jeepneys, which stands to displace them from their livelihoods.
“It is disappointing because we try to look at the issue both from the perspective of the passengers and the drivers who hardly earn anything. The government must be held to account,” Marciano said in an online interview with Bulatlat. (JJE, RVO)