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LTFRB to hear fare hike petitions today

Neil Jayson Servallos - The Philippine Star
LTFRB to hear fare hike petitions today
Daily commuters pay for their jeepney fare in Marikina on Thursday, June 9, 2022.
THE STAR / Walter Bollozos

MANILA, Philippines — The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) is scheduled to hear today the petitions of transport groups to raise the minimum fare for public utility jeepneys (PUJ) to as high as P5 amid the fuel price crisis.

Pasang Masda, Alliance of Transport Operators and Drivers Association of the Philippines (ALTODAP), Alliance of Concerned Transport Organizations (ACTO) and 1-UTAK in March sought before the LTFRB a petition for a P5 increase in the minimum fare which, if approved, could result in an adjustment in the current minimum fare from P10 to P15.

Meanwhile, the LTFRB said Liga ng Transportasyon at Operators ng Pilipinas (LTOP) is seeking a P6 increase.

“Petitioners are expected to furnish the Board with supporting evidence required of them in support of the allegations in their petitions,” the LTFRB said in a previous statement.

The STAR sought confirmation from the LTFRB whether transport groups have signified their intent to attend the proceedings, but the agency has yet to respond.

LTOP, Pasang Masda, ACTO, ALTODAP and the Stop and Go Transport Coalition boycotted the earlier hearings for the same petitions, citing the LTFRB’s apparent “refusal to entertain fare hike petitions.”

Transport groups earlier welcomed the LTFRB’s decision to raise the minimum fare to P10 amid skyrocketing fuel prices, but appealed for more fare hikes considering how the P1 increase would “barely” help drivers and operators break even amid hefty fuel costs.

The LTFRB’s decision on the petitions will come as a significant number of PUJ drivers have decided to stop operating or look elsewhere for livelihood. Some drivers have also reportedly gone back to the provinces and sold their units to other operators due to the losses they have incurred.

Oil companies announced another price hike for gasoline, diesel and kerosene to be implemented today, with the gasoline price increase at P0.50 per liter, P1.65 for diesel and P.10 per liter for kerosene.

Speed up distribution

As the third tranche of the fuel subsidy will be pursued at the Senate, the LTFRB should speed up the efficient distribution of fuel subsidies to the targeted beneficiaries in the public transport sector, according to Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian.

Gatchalian made the call as he is set to pursue the provision of the third tranche of the fuel subsidy program to provide economic relief to the transport sector reeling from the effects of the protracted oil price hikes.

“Many have stopped plying their jeepneys and many PUV (public utility vehicle) drivers have lost their jobs. The key here is that we must speed up the provision of assistance to them because time is of the essence,” Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate energy committee, was quoted as telling the LTFRB during the last consultative meeting on addressing high oil prices.

He is eyeing another round of Pantawid Pasada Program amounting to P3,000 per month for the next five months.

The distribution of the first tranche of the fuel subsidy for public utility vehicle drivers and operators which was supposed to have been completed within the second week of May had been marred by delays due to a lack of an existing database of the intended beneficiaries, according to the senator.

LTFRB chairman Martin Delgra III told Gatchalian during the consultative meeting that it was only this month that they were able to complete the database of qualified and legitimate franchise holders after the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) submitted the list of eligible tricycle drivers.

As of June 16, the total credited fuel subsidies stood at 232,586 or 88 percent and the remaining 31,992 was promised by the Land Bank of the Philippines to be remitted to the account holders this week.

Gatchalian also emphasized the need to build payout systems to guarantee prompt and accurate cash transfers as well as accessibility to government financial assistance.

Eligible PUV driver-beneficiaries received their subsidies through their existing Pantawid Pasada cash cards while non-cardholders were provided cash cards at designated Landbank branches identified by the LTFRB.

Meanwhile, Sen. Panfilo Lacson yesterday proposed what he called a two-pronged approach to help Filipinos cope with rising fuel prices while preventing erosion of government revenues.

Lacson said a conditional suspension of the excise tax on fuel and the scrapping of several lines of exemption in the value-added tax (VAT) could give Filipinos some badly needed breathing room from the effects of prohibitive fuel prices.

“We can conditionally suspend excise taxes on fuel when oil prices reach a threshold price in the international market such as $90 or even $100 per barrel. This could provide some breathing space not just for the transport sector but those affected by high fuel prices,” Lacson said in an interview with the media last Sunday evening. – Cecille Suerte Felipe, Paolo Romero

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