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LTFRB: Despite PUV fare hike petitions, minimum fare stays at P9 for now

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
LTFRB: Despite PUV fare hike petitions, minimum fare stays at P9 for now
Passengers pictured at Tandang Sora Jeep Terminal in Visayas Avenue, Quezon City on Oct. 19, 2021. The Department of Transportation is pushing for an increase in passenger capacity of public utility vehicles following the downgrading of Metro Manila's COVID-19 alert level from 4 to 3.
The STAR / Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — Despite petitions from jeepney groups, the minimum fare for public utility vehicles is set to stay at P9.00 for the time being until the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board decides on a resolution.

In a statement, the LTFRB said Tuesday that the requests for provisional adjustment to increase the minimum fare for public utility jeepneys from P9 to P10 have been submitted for resolution. The board said it scheduled another hearing for a public transport groups' petition for a fare hike on March 22. 

"The LTFRB strongly warns drivers and operators not to charge too much because the offense will be overcharging. Overcharging is considered as a breach of franchise condition... for the commuters, they can complain to the LTFRB," LTFRB Executive Director Tina Cassion said in Filipino in a Viber message to reporters. 

This comes after the LTFRB conducted a hearing this morning on the petition of several transport groups to increase the minimum fare for PUJ services in the Metro Manila, Central Luzon, Calabarzon and Mimaropa regions amid the continuous price increases. 

In a statement, the LTFRB said that transport groups 1-UTAK, Alliance of Concerned Transport Organization, Pasang Masda, Alliance of Transport Operators and Drivers Association of the Philippines, and Liga ng Transportasyon at Operators sa Pilipinas, presented before the Board their petitions for fare increase:

  • 1-UTAK, Pasang Masda, ALTODAP and Acto urged a P5 increase on the minimum fare, which will result to adjustment in the current fare from P9 to P14 or an increase of 55%. They are also asking for a provisional increase of PhP1.00 or an increase of 11%, while the Board is hearing their main petitions. 
     
  • Petitioner LTOP is asking for an adjustment of P3 from the current minimum fare or an increase of 33.33%. 

Cassion added that a breach of franchise condition has a corresponding penalty of a fine of P5,000 for the first offense; P10,000 and impounding of the unit for the second offense, and a P15,000 fine and the suspension or cancellation of the franchise for the third and subsequent offenses.  

On the other hand, several documentary requirements were requested from the petitioners on their main petition to increase the minimum fare by P5 and P3, respectively, which they committed to submit. 

In resolving both petitions for fare hike, the LTFRB said it "has to carefully scrutinize all aspects, especially the inflationary impact it will have on the economy, its effect on the commuters and the expected domino effect on the price of goods and services." 

When will the petitions actually be resolved? "Like in court, once the prosecution has rested its case, there is a period given for the judge to issue the resolution or decision on the case. The same thing happened earlier, the LTFRB being a quasi-judicial agency," Cassion said. She could not give reporters a definite timeline. 

What did the petitions say?

The LTOP pointed out that since the coronavirus-induced lockdowns in March 2020, there are still a number of routes that have not been allowed to operate. 

"Petitioners did not want to pass the burden to the commuters during this period... however, [we] cannot envision any government program that will mitigate the burden of the PUJ transport sector or that will abate the soaring operation and living expense," it said. 

1-UTAK and Pasang Masda pointed out that the price of diesel in Metro Manila stands at P54.37, good for a 42.7% increase. The groups said that this results in an additional P16.27 per liter expense for the operation of a public utility jeepney. 

"Operators are now operating at a loss, and drivers are earning well below the minimum wage. It is unfair, unjust, and illegal to continue with this fare rate. Operators have a right to demand a rate that would allow a reasonable return for their investment, or at the very least, a little profit for the sustenance of their families, while drivers have a right to demand, at least, the minimum wage provided for by law," they said. 

Earlier Monday evening at President Rodrigo Duterte's Talk to the People, the National Economic and Development Authority recommended increasing the fuel subsidy program for public utility vehicles but did not mention fare hikes. At the hearing of the House ad-hoc committee on the fuel crisis caused by the Russia-Ukraine conflict, though, the NEDA said raising transport fares could lead to a bigger inflationary risk if it eventually leads to wage hike petitions later on.

"The LTFRB will start its release of the fuel subsidy for the more than 377,000 beneficiaries [...] before the end of March, while the Service Contracting Program is also targeted to be launched within the same month, once funds are downloaded by the DBM," the LTFRB also said. 

The two programs of the DOTr and LTFRB are intended to cushion the adverse effect to the PUV operators and drivers on the series of oil price hikes.

Jeepney groups have expressed apprehension over the fuel subsidy program, saying the national government has been releasing the money to operators instead of directly giving it to the PUV drivers. The LTFRB has defended this saying it is in the law that the franchise holder is the beneficiary of the subsidy. 

Where is the fuel subsidy? Undersecretary Roly Toledo of the Department of Budget and Management admitted at the same House hearing that the DBM had already received the request for funds from the DOTr but said that "we are still awaiting for the documentary requirements to be sent to us."

"We gave them anytime within the week for this to be submitted," he said.

DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

LAND TRANSPORTATION FRANCHISING AND REGULATORY BOARD

LTFRB

PUBLIC UTILITY JEEPNEYS

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