P.50 jeepney fare hike takes effect

MANILA -- The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) granted Tuesday transport groups’ request for a 50-centavo provisional fare hike in public utility jeepneys (PUJ) in the National Capital Region (NCR) and selected parts of the country.

LTFRB Chairman Jaime Jacob said the increase, which is effective immediately, would only be implemented for the first four kilometers of the jeepney’s route and there would be no increase in the succeeding kilometers.

PUJ services operating in NCR, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, Calabrazon, Mimaropa and Bicol are provisionally authorized to increase the fare. The provisional fare for the first kilometers now is P8.50.

Similar increase was also granted to PUJs operating in Western Visayas, Central Visayas, Eastern Visayas, Zamboanga Peninsula and Northern Mindanao, making the minimum fare P8.

PUJs in Ilocos have no provisional fare increase, Jacob explained, since they have an existing P8.50 authorized fare for the first four kilometers, while the rest not included in the order have no pending petition for fare increase.

“All other regions which have no pending petition for fare increase and prayers for provisional increase shall have no fare adjustment. Their existing authorized fare shall remain,” he added.

The provisional authority was issued while the board weighs the petition for a fare rate increase of P2 for the minimum fare and 35 centavos per succeeding kilometer (from the existing P1.40 to P1.75). A public hearing has yet to be scheduled.

The petition for the provisional fare hike were filed by transport groups Federation of Jeepney Operators and Drivers Association of the Philippines, the Alliance of Concerned Transport Operators, Pangkalahatang Sanggunian Manila and Suburbs Drivers Association, 1-Utak and Liga ng Transportasyon at Opereytors sa Pilipinas.

In Davao Region, a militant transport group urged the public on Tuesday to just accept the newly approved 50-centavo provisional jeepney fare increase.

Transmission-Piston in Southern Mindanao secretary-general Edil Gonzaga said the move is an "economic relief" for drivers amid rising cost of diesel and vehicle spare parts.

Gonzaga said the minimum fare adjustment, from P8 to P8.50, is just reasonable as oil companies have continued to increase prices of diesel.

"Kung aduna may ipatuman, i-avail na sa katawhan. Ang angay nato nga ipadayon ug kombinsi sa gobyerno nga tanggalon ang 12 percent nga expanded value added tax (The public have to accept the fare increase and should continue to convince the government to scrap the 12 percent Evat instead)," he said.

Gonzaga added the provisional fare hike must be implemented nationwide.

He said transport groups have long petitioned for the increase as they can no longer cope with the rising cost of fuel and spare parts.

Jeepneys will be required to roll back the minimum fare once diesel prices go back to P45 per liter.

LTFRB Central Visayas Director Ahmed Cuizon said that while the provisional authority takes effect immediately, drivers cannot collect the new fare yet unless they secure the fare matrix from his office.

The Transportation department also reminded drivers and operators to give the 20 percent discount to senior citizens, upon presentation of their senior citizen identification cards, and to students during school days.

Transportation Secretary Manuel Roxas II justified the 50-centavo provisional fare hike on PUJ, saying the government was just balancing the need of the sectors affected.

The LTFRB conducted public hearings on the petition for fare rate increase last December 8, 2011 and an executive session last January 17, 2012.

In the December 8 hearing, the National Council for Commuter Protection Inc., Commuters and Consumers Advocates of the Philippines, Gabriela Inc. and Antonio Baltazar opposed the petition.

In the January 17 executive session, the board agreed that any petition for rate adjustment would create a domino effect on the prices of basic commodities.

However, the LTFRB said that while it recognizes the plight of Filipino commuters, it cannot be insensitive to the clamor of stakeholders in public land transportation services.

But LTFRB Board Member Manuel Iway said the approval of a provisional fare increase of P0.50 is quite unjustified and unnecessary.

Iway said the petitioners failed to present during their hearings financial statements, projections and studies showing possible losses from fuel price hikes and the possible margin of profit, which he added should be within the 12 percent allowable limit under the new and revised rates, as well as documents that could prove the alleged increase in spare parts.

“A month and three hearings have passed and yet no such documents or shred of proof has been presented, giving rise to the presumption that petitioners have no documents to prove their self-serving allegations of the alleged increase,” Iway said in his dissenting opinion.

“Considering how fare hikes ultimately burden the people in this country, it behooves the petitioners to back their claims with solid evidence. As petitioners have not presented any proof of their self-serving claim by the time this provisional fare increase was granted, it is clear such grant is unjustified,” he added.

In addition, Iway said the grant of the provisional fare increase is unnecessary because the government has tried to ease their plight through the Pantawid Pasada Program, where each legitimate driver is given P1,200 for gasoline allowance.

In a related development, the public should also brace for an increase in fares of the Metro Rail Transit (MRT), the DOTC said.

Roxas said Tuesday that they are doing everything within their budgetary allocations to delay the increase, but added they would not be able to do so in the long run.

The DOTC chief refused to state the definite time of the increase, saying that at present, their funds are still enough to shoulder the subsidy.

But he added that any increase would not result in MRT fares similar to public utility buses (PUB).

Roxas said any amount generated from the fare hike would go back to improving the MRT system, which has experienced several technical malfunctions last year.

The DOTC said the last time the MRT initiated a fare hike was in 2002 but with operating expenses of the three train lines continuing to increase over the past years, including the purchase of new trains to bring more than 420,000 passengers daily from the north to south part of the metropolis, the government has to find additional funds to cover these costs.

In order to continue its daily operation, Roxas said MRT and LRT allocate at least P55 per train passenger to cover power consumption, general maintenance and other overhead costs.

At present, commuters in Metro Manila pay from P12 to P15 fare, with the remainder of the allocated P55 per passenger operating cost subsidized by the government.

The plan to increase the MRT fare first floated last year and has gained the support of the 80-member League of Provinces of the Philippines (LGP).

The LGP argued that the amount spent by the government for the subsidy should have been given to the provinces, especially since not all Filipinos enjoyed the services of MRT. (AH/Arianne Caryl Casas of Sun.Star Davao/EOB of Sun.Star Cebu/Sunnex)

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