Minimum jeepney fare stays at ₱9 amid soaring fuel prices

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 8)— The minimum fare for public utility jeepneys remains at ₱9 for now as the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) continues to evaluate the transport groups’ appeals for an increase.

The LTFRB heard two petitions on Tuesday – one that seeks a ₱5 increase in the minimum fare from ₱9 to ₱14 and another that wants it higher at ₱6 in Metro Manila, Central Luzon, and Southern Tagalog.

The first petition, filed by groups 1-UTAK, Pasang Masda, ALTODAP, and ACTO, also calls for a ₱2.50 fee for every succeeding kilometer, from the current tag of ₱1.50.

Meanwhile, LTFRB Chairman Martin Delgra asked the other petitioner, LTOP, to submit another document amending and clarifying its plea.

During the hearing, 1-Utak President Vigor Mendoza argued that jeepney drivers are now spending ₱1,200 more for fuel, therefore, significantly diminishing their income.

Pending action on the first petition filed in January, the groups have asked regulators to revert to the minimum fare of ₱10, recalling that it is the amount the government approved when it green-lighted a ₱2 fare hike back in 2018.

By the end of that said year, however, the LTFRB provisionally lowered the fare to ₱9, as diesel prices dipped as low as ₱38 per liter – something the petitioners noted as a far cry from the current prices of more than ₱60 per liter.

Roberto “Ka Obet” Martin, president of Pasang Masda, could not hide his dismay in a phone interview with CNN Philippines after the LTFRB’s virtual hearing.

Ngayon kami na ang nahihirapan (Now, we are the ones who are suffering),” he lamented.

“From ₱42 to ₱49 (diesel prices in early 2018), ₱8 to ₱10 (fare increase) inapprove ninyo. Ang minimum wage during that time parehas rin ngayon tsaka noon,” he added.

[Translation: From the ₱42 to ₱49 jump in diesel prices in early 2018, you approved a fare increase from ₱8 to ₱10. The minimum wage then is the same as now.]

Wala akong makitang dahilan para hindi ibalik yung sampung piso muna. Dahil kailangan namin. Yung piso kasi malaking bagay sa driver ‘yan. Makapagsakay ka ng 200 pasahero, that’s ₱200,” the transport leader explained.

[Translation: I cannot see any reason against reverting to ₱10 for now when we need it. A single peso is worth a lot to a driver. If you service 200 passengers, that’s ₱200.]

Delgra initially asked petitioners to submit a memorandum, but their counsel, Greg Pua, pointed out that they had already filed urgent motions to restore the minimum fare.

Delgra conceded and announced that the proposed ₱1 increase “is now submitted for resolution.”

On the main petitions seeking a bigger fare hike, the LTFRB initially scheduled a second hearing on April 6. But LTOP President Orlando Marquez pleaded for a swift resolution, thus the March 22 date was for the next hearing.

Pasang Masda said the petitioners will submit receipts and other documents requested by the LTFRB.

Speaking to CNN Philippines' The Final Word, LTFRB Executive Director Ma. Kristina Cassion said a decision will be released after the March 22 hearing, noting that the board needs to consider all factors - like inflationary impact, effect on commuters, and effect on price of goods and services - before deciding on the matter.

For now, the government is offering a "basket of solutions" to help affected sectors, which includes fuel subsidies, Cassion said. The ₱2.5 billion subsidy from the 2022 budget will cover about 377,000 beneficiaries, she pointed out.

Oil prices surged for the 10th straight week on Tuesday, prompting calls for fare increase, fuel subsidy, suspension of excise taxes, and other forms of government intervention.