Can you see and hear our poor and needy?  

PERSPECTIVE - Cherry Piquero Ballescas - The Freeman

One, our public transport drivers?

At the start and at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, our transport drivers were already out in the streets.

No, they were not plying their previous routes to pick up/drive passengers to their destinations. Neither were they driving their jeepneys.

For a long time, the quarantine protocols, not backed up with solid research and intelligent deliberation, curtailed the freedom of many, including our drivers and other workers.

Without their daily source of income, many of our drivers took to the streets to beg, to ask kind hearts to share whatever they could so that the drivers and their families could have food for a day or more.

Remember a driver’s family that had to live in their unused jeepney since they could no longer afford the rent and utility fees for their previous small dwelling?

Now, with less COVID-19 cases and with alert levels down, like most activities, public transport had been given the go signal to resume.

Sadly, much as they would like to, the transport drivers cannot resume driving. They are now raising their cries for government to hear!

How can they survive and earn enough each day with soaring gasoline prices?

Government points to the impact on oil prices of the present Ukraine invasion by Russia. However, even before the Ukraine crisis, did you not wonder why the Duterte government was announcing an oil price hike almost weekly?

When public protest recently grew louder, imagine, this government tried to appease the drivers by announcing a temporary halt to weekly oil hike --but not after raising the price by P12!

How can our public transport drivers survive very expensive gasoline prices?

Many have stopped driving altogether but continue to struggle to find daily livelihood opportunities, which, sadly, are few.

There are those who have lengthened their driving hours to bring home enough for their family’s daily needs. Many are forced to accept the government fuel subsidy for them, even if they resent and are insulted again, by mindless insufficient subsidy for them.

Many of them are crying out for the suspension of the excise tax that can considerably lower the gas prices and allow the drivers to survive a little more comfortably, especially amidst COVID-19 and other lingering economic/social crises that have deepened and widened poverty and hunger.

Yes, why not suspend excise tax?

Where does the excise tax go anyway?

For build/build/build/other infrastructure? Can not the needy poor be prioritized instead?

Time to soonest review/investigate where the excise taxes collected have gone and been utilized. It is also time to review and demand Duterte/his team to explain the weekly oil hike policy they implemented, including a transparent accounting about where the taxes from the weekly oil price hikes went!

Then, our fisherfolks also affected by oil hikes!

Have you seen and heard their lament? Many using motorized bancas are now unable to afford the expensive gas prices and have stopped fishing at present!

Can you imagine who else will be affected by less fish supply?

Have you also seen and heard the ordinary Filipino protesting the increase in prices of food basic items?

Then, food producers, consumers, other workers, households and more!

The number of Filipinos needing respite from unreasonable, unexplained, unaccounted for government policies and taxes are asking, especially Duterte and his team:

“Can you see us, can you hear the Filipinos cry and protest?”

“Can you see us millions of hungry/needy Filipinos clamoring, protesting, praying that our present struggle for daily survival end soonest?”

Not a day more please. Enough of oil hikes, excise/other taxes, and many more mindless policies that have ignored the basic needs/plight of millions of hungry/poor/marginalized Filipinos!


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