Taxi drivers struggle with rising oil prices

AT the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, the public transport sector was among those hard hit.

Due to Covid-19 restrictions – such as a limited number of passengers allowed in vehicles or fewer people commuting – the income of public utility vehicle (PVU) drivers has clearly decreased.

Now that the city has been placed under Alert Level 1, allowing more people to move around and businesses to reopen, it looks like the recovery can begin for PUV drivers.

However, the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, which may be far from the Philippines, has led to another problem: rising oil prices. This has affected both SUV drivers and vehicle owners. The increase in transport costs will also increase the price of basic goods and commodities.

This is something that worries Randy Lascuna. The 42-year-old taxi driver of his hired taxi for four years has yet to feel the slow economic recovery due to the scarcity of passengers.

“Usahay mingaw, usahay wala koy madala karon na mahal nang essence [ug] Krudo. Dili naka kabwelo kay mahadlok kay mahal nakayo ang essence,” he said.

(There are times when I only get a few passengers on board. This cannot compensate for the current rise in oil and crude prices. Sometimes I am apprehensive to operate due to the continuous increase in fuel.)

Before the pandemic, Lascuna could drive and pick up passengers for almost 24 hours. But now he had to reduce it to 12 hours. Back then he called it a day when he could get P500 to P600 a day. It would be lucky if he could bring home at least 700-800 pesos a day.

While fuel prices have yet to come down and it’s unclear when, some of his fellow drivers are considering quitting.

“Huna-huna gani nako na muundang ko og drive og taxi, mangitag lain trabaho kay pait naman mamasahero karon,” Lascuna said.

(I plan to quit driving a taxi and look for another job because it’s hard to find passengers at the moment.)

Retsky, name withheld, 40, a taxi driver for nearly a decade, told how he had to endure the scorching heat of the sun just to queue along the street in hopes of picking up a passenger.

With no other way, he says he can’t give up driving because he has three kids, all in high school, to feed and support them.

For eight hours, he usually brings P700 home. He said it was not a common case because there are days when he would not meet this quota.

Unfortunately, there is no financial assistance from their operators, but he said they were able to receive financial assistance from the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (ILTFRB). However, with the continued rises in oil prices, Retsky isn’t sure how long he could endure.

Retsky said he would continue to drive and hoped the gradual reopening of the economy would help him weather this financial turmoil.

“Pasada gihapon, lisod ang kita kay gamay man kita. Wala gyud ta’y mabuhat, ingon ani naman gyud. about it.) That’s life,” he said.

Unlike Retsky, Tots, 58, had already stopped driving for a month due to the continued rise in fuel prices.

Tots said he drove 15 to 16 hours a day just to mitigate rising gas prices for him to secure his border, but it was futile, which made him decide to stop for a while. time.

“Sa pagkakaron, lisod kaayo. Uncertain income, i.e. gas and rent,” he said.

(From now on, it’s really hard to look for stable income. My driving income would mainly go to buying gasoline, while at the same time, another part would go to taxi rent the next day.)

Certainly, he no longer wants government intervention in his situation. Instead, he would strategize so his family could survive these uncertain times.

“Kung mureklamo mi, dili man tagdon kay ubos raman mi. Dili gani tagdon ang ga-rally. Sunod na lang sa unsay naa,” Tots said.

(There is no point in complaining since we are only a minority. They won’t even listen to those who gather in the streets. We just have to accept what lies ahead.)

Lascuna also felt that taxi drivers and other PUV drivers were not included in the government’s fuel subsidy program.

“Dapat tagaan pud og ayuda ang taxi, kay sa akong makatigdan ang PUJ ra gyud kasagaran ang mahatagan ug ayuda. The taxi driver looy kayo, the flagdown rate applies to constantly increase the price of gasoline. Kaayo unfair”, Lascuna said.

(They should provide financial assistance to taxi drivers. From my observation, only these PUJs are given priority. Taxi drivers feel left behind since the flag rate has not increased due to the increase in crude and gasoline prices. It’s unfair.)

Alona Cruz, a public school teacher, has been driving taxis since last year, when they were now mandated to work face-to-face.

However, for the past few days, it has become difficult for her to take a taxi early in the morning. Even booking through a taxi app seems like a challenge.

“Usahay lisod i-book og taxi. Kapila ko sige gina-cancel. Kanang magpara sab kag taxi, puno-puno sab. Usahay mingaw kaayo. Maong mapugos ka og jeep bisan dugay kaayo ka makabiyahe,” Cruz said.

(It is difficult for me to book a taxi because it is often canceled. If you personally seek a taxi, it is mostly busy. Sometimes there are only a few taxis. That’s why I have to take a jeep even if it takes longer to reach my destination.)

She said it could be because some drivers were forced to stop operating.

Pantawid Pasada Program

To help alleviate the plight of the PUV sector in the face of the continued increase in oil prices, the government launched the Pantawid Pasada (PPP) program by providing a one-time grant to provide financial assistance to PUJ franchisees and operators due to the recent rise in oil prices. prices amid the pandemic. The program covers PUJs, multicab franchise holders (filcabs) and even modern jeepneys that require fuel. Each unit will receive 7,200 pesos each.

The national government has allocated 1 billion pesos to the subsidy program for 136,000 beneficiaries nationwide.

This is in accordance with the provision of Republic Act No. 10963 or the Tax Reform Act for Acceleration and Inclusion (train) for all valid and operational franchise dealers for PUJs and filcabs.

As of March 19, 2022, LTFRB-Davao announced that an additional fuel subsidy worth 6,500 pesos per unit will be provided for 14,130 units of public utility vehicles.

According to data from LTFRB-Davao, the additional subsidy was first released to 7,273 operators and drivers of traditional PUJs and filcabs.

To date, 6,034 or 42.7% of target beneficiaries have claimed their subsidy through PPP cards, which can be used at some gas stations.

The subsidy for 6,857 additional units consisting of 860 public service buses, 628 UV Express, 5,220 taxis and 149 tourist transport services will soon be released.

Based on the previous statement from the LTFRB National Office on February 18, 2022, the additional grant of 6,500 pesos was supposed to be released in April 2022, but was released earlier to help beneficiaries cope with the increase in prices of petroleum products.

In addition, 82% of the beneficiaries have claimed the fuel subsidy of P7,200 as of March 25, 2022. The said subsidy was first paid to PUJs in December 2021 and from February to April 1 for Filcabs.

At least 7,273 units or beneficiaries in total received the fuel subsidy of P7,200.

Meanwhile, LTFRB-Davao confirmed that it has not yet received a request for a rate increase in the Davao area to date.

“Suspend excise tax on fuel”

Various progressive groups had lobbied for the suspension of the excise tax.

Transportation Chief Larry Arguilles of Transmission-Piston Southern Mindanao called at a March 16 protest for the suspension of the excise tax they say is driving up oil prices in the market.

“There is ra gyud madala with kada round trip naa ra gyud with kapin gatus ug samtang ang ihayang arkila nasa P400 kung jeep, like man kuhaon karon with driver and my income aron madala with iyang pamilya?” asked Arguilles.

(They can only earn P400 per round trip, now where can they earn other income for their family?)

He said jeepney drivers were also spending more and earning less due to rising oil prices.

The head of Piston said that a jeepney driving around the city center consumes one liter per round trip, but for the whole day the jeepney will consume a minimum of 15 litres.

The Train Law, according to the Department of Finance (DOF), imposes an excise tax of 10 pesos per liter of gasoline, 6 pesos for diesel, 5 pesos for kerosene and 3 pesos per kilogram for gasoline. liquefied petroleum (LPG).

According to a report by the Philippine News Agency, DOF Secretary Carlos Dominguez said the oil excise tax suspension would cost the government 105.9 billion pesos in lost revenue this year.

The government had planned to collect a total of 147.1 billion pesos in taxes on petroleum products in 2022 – 15.8 billion pesos in VAT according to the previous benchmark estimate of world oil costing 70 dollars a barrel, plus 131, 4 billion pesos of excise duty on fuel.

Dominguez warned that reduced revenue will affect public programs and projects — like expensive infrastructure projects under the “Build, Build. Build”, as well as the salaries of teachers and uniformed staff – because tax revenues had been programmed to fund these budgetary needs. (With reports by John Miguel Antoque and Angelica Eugenio, DNSC interns)

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