Drivers’ Income Nosedives as Oil Price
Diesel prices up by P21.50/liter since
How much does a jeepney driver, the
Philippines’ “king of the road” so to speak, spend to earn his living for
a day? Bulatlat
interviewed jeepney drivers-transport leaders to find out.
BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
Protesters flash anti-oil price hike placards before a jeepney during
the April 18 transport strike, extreme left, as Modesto Floranda,
left, speaks at a rally the same day at the Welcome Rotonda.
Extreme left photo
from AP/Aaron Favila; left photo by Alexander Martin Remollino
How much does a
jeepney driver, the Philippines’ “king of the road” so to speak, spend
these days to earn his living for a day? Modesto Floranda knows this too
well, being himself a jeepney driver.
Floranda, who is also
the vice president for the National Capital Region (NCR) of the
Pinag-isang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide (Piston or
United Nationwide Association of Drivers and Operators), talked to
Bulatlat April 18 at the Welcome Rotonda, the boundary between Manila
and Quezon City, in the heat of the nationwide transport strike held that
Piston, together with
the Federation of Jeepney Operators and Drivers Association of the
Philippines (Fejodap), the Philippine Confederation of Drivers and
Operators-Alliance of Concerned Transport Organizations (PCDO-ACTO), the
Alliance of Transport Operators and Drivers of the Philippines (Altodap),
and the Integrated Metro Bus Operators Associations (IMBOA), staged the
transport strike to protest the latest series of oil price hikes.
Petroleum prices have
risen more than five times since January alone.
Welcome Rotonda was
one of the mass-up points and Floranda answered Bulatlat’s
questions amid the blaring of the megaphone and the honking of horns by
motorists supporting the strike. Along Espańa Street in Manila and Quezon
Avenue in Quezon City, which both adjoin the Welcome Rotonda, it was like
midnight though the sun was up and piercingly hot – as it was hard to find
priced at P26.50 ($0.49 based on a $1:P54.31 exchange rate), is what
jeepney drivers use to fuel their vehicles. (Jeepney is the Filipino’s
ingenuous improvisation of the World War II-vintage GI jeep. The modern
jeepney seats about 20 passengers.)
Floranda says that
everyday jeepney drivers consume about 30 liters of diesel. This is the
same figure given by Piston chairman Mar Garvida in a March 2004 interview
At P26.50/liter 30
liters cost P795 ($14.64). With the minimum fare presently pegged at P5.50
($0.11), a jeepney driver has to take in 145 passengers a day just to
recover diesel costs.
Bulatlat last year, Garvida said that a driver takes in an average of
300 passengers a day in order to earn, i.e., minus the fuel costs. That
figure has not changed, said Floranda.
At the present
minimum fare rate, a driver earns a gross income of P1,650 ($30.38) a day.
Less the P795 spent for diesel and the P750 boundary fee, the driver is
left with P105 in net income.
The situation was
somewhat different when Bulatlat interviewed Garvida in March 2004.
A driver then had to
shell out some P540 ($9.62 based on the then $1:P56.10 average exchange
rate) a day for diesel and P500 (then $8.91) as his boundary fee. With the
minimum fare then pegged at P4 (then $0.0071), a driver earned a gross
income of P1,200 (then $21.39). Minus P1,040 (then $18.54) for diesel and
the boundary fee, driver took home a net income of P160 (then $2.85).
Note that the
boundary fee is also higher today than it was in March 2004.
prices rise, the prices of jeepney parts also rise,” Floranda said.
“Operators tell us that when petroleum prices rise, they also have to
raise boundary fees. Every hike in boundary fees eats into the drivers’
As the figures stand,
a jeepney driver looks just slightly less lucky today than he was in March
2004. But taking into account the increases in the daily cost of living
for a family of six – the average Filipino family – will immediately
dispel such impression.
As of December 2003,
the national average daily cost of living for a family of six was P455.94
($8.41 based on the year’s average exchange rate of $1:P54.20). This
figure was used as the yardstick for drivers’ earnings vis-a-vis the cost
of living in March 2004. As of December 2004, the national average daily
cost of living for a family of the same size had shot up to P492.19 ($9.06
based on a $1:P54.31 exchange rate).
Whereas in March 2004
a jeepney driver’s net earnings were P295.94 below the period’s national
average daily cost of living for a family of six, today they are P389.19
below the national average daily cost of living for a family of the same
So a jeepney driver
these days, after spending some 12-14 hours (by Floranda’s estimates) – or
from hours before sunrise to hours after sunset – on the streets which are
mostly full of potholes, and over which polluted air hangs, he gets to
take home a net income that is P389.19 below what he needs if he has to
support himself and five other relatives. This, at the end of a day in
which he often just barely takes his meals so he could be on the streets
longer and make more trips and thus a little more money – that is, if
there is still such a thing these days considering the continuing
depreciation of the peso.
This does not yet
include the instances in which he has to shell out extra money because he
in his stressed-out condition made the mistake of parking where he
shouldn’t park (which is known to vary from time to time depending on
traffic enforcers’ whims), and some policeman thinking of having a good
time “pounced” on him and asked him for tong (loosely, bribe money)
just so he wouldn’t be issued a traffic violation ticket.
“Drivers were way
better off before the oil industry was deregulated,” said Floranda. The
downstream oil industry was deregulated in 1996 to promote competition and
thus pave the way for “fair” oil prices, according to an article on the
website of the Department of Energy (DoE).
another Piston member, recalled in a phone interview with Bulatlat
that in 1996, just before the passage of the Downstream Oil Industry
Deregulation Act, diesel cost only P5.50 (then $0.21) a liter. At the end
of each day’s work, a driver paid P400 (then $15.38) as boundary fee.
Taking in an average
of 300 passengers a day at that year’s minimum fare of P2.50 (then
$0.096), the driver was earning a gross income of P750 (then $28.86)
daily. Taking from that the P165 (then $6.35) spent on diesel daily
(P5.50/liter of diesel multiplied by 30 liters a day), as well as the P400
boundary fee, a driver was left with P185 (then $10.58) a day. This was
P128.38 below the then national average daily cost of living of P313.38
“That was why during
that time, whenever drivers counted their money, they were a bit flashy,”
Floranda recounted with a smile. “But now they could no longer be flashy
because their pockets have nothing left to flash.”
Indeed, this writer
can recall various instances when he, as a college junior just a few
months before oil deregulation, had talked with jeepney drivers who
thought themselves more fortunate than the factory workers who then earned
P165 (then $6.35) a day.
Those days are far
behind. Today the jeepney driver is far less lucky than the factory worker
– who, with the cost of living relentlessly rising and his wages staying
where they are, is also getting more and more unlucky.
Meanwhile, in an
April 17 column for the tabloid Bulgar, Presidential Management
Staff chief Rigoberto Tiglao castigated drivers for not conserving fuel.
“Many drivers leave
their engines to belch smoke,” Tiglao wrote. “That way, they burn more
than half of their fuel.”
Asked to comment on
this, Floranda said: “I pity those who think like that. What kind of
driver wants to suffer? What kind of driver is he who doesn’t want to
earn? But the problem is, the high prices of petroleum products combined
with the taxes on these cause the dwindling of drivers’ earnings.”
In the same column,
Tiglao also wrote that: “In fact, oil prices in the Philippines are not as
high as in other countries.” He cited the following examples:
(price per liter
“Those figures are
correct,” Floranda said. “But what he fails to take into account are the
differences in the standards of living among the countries he mentioned.
Among those countries, the Philippines has the lowest income.” Bulatlat
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© 2004 Bulatlat
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