BAGUIO CITY — As the prices of crude oil and other petroleum products soar, the transport sector in the city is asking for more progressive solutions to the country’s oil industry crisis than just petition for fare increases.
According to Lito Wayas of the Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operators Nationwide (Piston) Baguio-Benguet chapter, while the fare hikes are necessary these are just band-aid solutions to relieve operators and drivers from the incessant oil price hikes.
Wayas cited that the removal of the 12% value added tax (VAT) on crude oil and other petroleum products would give an immediate relief for the transport sector and the public in general.
Jeepney drivers who use an average of 25 liters of diesel oil a day at the present price of P51.53 per liter, pay an average of P154.59 a day, P4,792.29 a month or P57,507.48 a year as VAT.
“There are about 500,000 jeepney drivers nationwide and this does not yet include the taxis, tricycles, buses and the private vehicles,” said Wayas adding that one can only imagine how the government is “taking a huge amount in taxes on VAT alone, and robbing the people of their hard-earned money.”
Amid this crisis, the option to nationalize Petron Corporation resurfaced.
According to Ignas Pangket of the Organisasyon dagiti Nakurapay nga Umili ti Syudad (Ornus), it would be wise for the government to buy back the oil company privatized in 1994 by former President Fidel V. Ramos.
Pangket also said the oil industry as a strategic industry should be developed and nationalized to control the prices and protect the consumers. “It must be under strict supervision and control of the government,” he said.
At present, the government owns 40% of Petron Corporation. Saudi Arabia’s Aramco owns 40% while individual stockholders own the remaining 20%.
Meanwhile, the Anakpawis (toiling masses) Partylist has proposed House Bill 3030 instituting a centralized procurement of petroleum in the country.
According to the proposed bill, the people would be protected from runaway increase in oil prices by prohibiting hidden and unchecked transfer pricing by oil company subsidiary, price padding in the sale of petroleum between refineries and local subsidiaries.
Considered one of the most doable remedies is the repeal of the Oil Deregulation Law.
“If this law is scrapped, the government would regain its regulatory powers over the oil industry and would obligate and compel oil companies to justify the price increases,” said Pangket.
According to a survey by IBON Foundation done last April, six out of ten Filipinos want the Oil Deregulation Law repealed, wanting the government to restore its regulation of the local oil industry.
On the other hand, Piston disapproves of Malacañang’s P1 billion-loan offer for the public utility vehicles (PUVs) to convert to Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) as a cheaper alternative.
“It is still a loan that drivers and operators should pay back and the price of LPG is also continuously increasing giving no assurance for us to be relieved of this perennial problem,” said Wayas adding that the money to be used for this loan would also be coming from the people’s pockets.
According to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s June 16 pronouncement the “assistance fund” would be sourced from the “juice of VAT” on petroleum products.
It costs from P70,000 to P200,000 to convert from a diesel engine to an LPG-run engine.
Presently, different jeepney driver and operator groups in the region are seeking another P0.50 provisional fare increase while their petition is pending in the national Land Transportation Franchising Regulatory Board (LTFRB) office.
Department of Transportation and Communications (DoTC) Regional Director Federico Mandapat said the fare hike has not yet been officially approved. He is concerned though that the price of oil products is rising almost weekly but the income of ordinary commuters has not increased.
“The issue is very ticklish,” Mandapat said. “Have we considered the income of the riding public?” he asked during a press conference on June 25.
The city’s taxi drivers and operators are now petitioning for a P30 flag down rate for the first 400 meters and P2.50 for every 200 meters over the current rate of P25 flag down and P1.50 for every 100 meters. They are also asking for a P10 provisional fare hike while their official petition is still pending. # Cye Reyes