CEBU BUS FARE INCREASE LOOMS
TRAIN LAW EFFECT
There are many travel options for anyone bound for San Remigio, a third-class town 80 kilometers northwest of Cebu City,
For Riva Masbate, taking the bus is the most budget-friendly.
But the weekly trip home can eventually be too costly for Masbate, 20, with bus operators in northern and southern Cebu now intending to impose a fare hike amid a rise in the cost of fuel because of the excise tax on oil imposed under the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (Train).
The northern and southern Cebu bus operators were actually long authorized by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) to increase the minimum fare to P6 for the first five kilometers but it was not implemented after they signed a memorandum of agreement with the Cebu provincial government in 2014 to put it on hold.
Now, the Cebu Provincial Bus Operators Association (CPBOA), Cebu South Mini Bus Operators Association (CSMBOA) and Cebu North Mini Bus Operators Association (CSMBOA) want to terminate their MOA with Capitol so they can begin collecting the additional fare.
Cebu Gov. Hilario Davide III said he will not object to terminating the MOA.
But for Masbate, who travels at least three hours by bus from Cebu City to her family home in Barangay Argawanon of San Remigio, it can mean an end to her weekend trip home.
At present, a one way fare already costs Masbate P100.
“If that’s the case, then I don’t think I will be able to go home every weekend. I’m already on a tight budget staying here in Cebu City.
And more often than not, the only money I’ll carry aboard the bus is my fare,” explained Masbate, who works and stays in Cebu City as a freelance video editor and a part-time English as a second language (ESL) lecturer.
Following the passage of the Train Law, Filipino workers are expected to get a larger take-home pay.
But it comes with a cost: higher excise tax are slapped on some basic commodities, including fuel products, which prompted oil companies and energy suppliers to increase their prices. In turn, several transport groups nationwide are calling for an increase of fares for public utility vehicles (PUVs).
The most recent in Cebu is the Cebu Provincial Bus and Mini Bus Operators Cooperative which, on Sunday, announced they planned to reimpose the LTFRB-approved fare.
After enjoying four years of undercharged bus fares, Julieto Flores, president of the Cebu Provincial Bus and Mini Bus Operators Cooperative, said passengers such as Masbate will have to brace for an increase in their usual bus fares. ”We will be returning to the normal rates prescribed by the LTFRB.
This means that we are planning to terminate the MOA with the Capitol,” said Flores.
He was referring to the MOA they voluntarily entered with the Cebu Provincial Government in 2014 that mandates at least 50 bus operators, covering both the southern and northern portions of Cebu, under their cooperative to charge a discounted rate of P5 for the first five kilometers, and P1 for every succeeding kilometer. If terminated, not only will the operators charge the P6 minimum fare but also the additional P1.40 for every succeeding kilometer.
Flores noted they had no problem signing the MOA in December 2014 since the price of fuel products such as diesel was only P30 per liter at that time. With the Train Law, diesel now costs P41 per liter, he said.
The cooperative is composed of major bus operators in the province, including the Cebu Autobus, Librando Lines, Sunrays, and Corominas.
Representatives from these bus companies are set to meet today with officials from the Provincial Legal Office and the Cebu South Bus Terminal (CSBT) management to discuss the new bus rates.
Flores said the changes in their rates will be implemented once the termination of the MOA becomes official. Davide yesterday said he was amenable to rescinding the MOA with the south bus operators provided that the discount privileges for students, senior citizens, and persons with disabilities (PWD) will not be affected.
“It’s OK. As long as magpabilin ang discounts para sa mga students, senior citizens, and PWDs. Makasabot pud ta sa mga operators (the discount for students, senior citizens and PWDs will remain. We understand the operators),” said Davide.
Flores assured they have no problems with continuing the 20 percent discount for students, senior citizens, and PWDs since this is also mandated by law. Before 2014, the Cebu bus operators have also agreed to a discounted fare rate.
It can be recalled that in 2008, the bus operators had a MOA with the province, then headed by former governor and now Cebu Third District Rep. Gwendolyn Garcia, to increase the minimum bus fare to P8.50 plus P1.45 for every succeeding kilometer because of the spike in fuel prices at that time.
In 2011, however, the bus operators agreed to reduce the minimum fare to P6 plus P1 for every succeeding kilometer because of the reduction of oil prices in the world market.
“Then the oil prices reduced further in 2014 and that’s when we drafted the (MOA) we entered with Governor Davide,” added Flores.
Aside from the bus operators, the spike in fuel prices resulting from the Train Law also prompted public utility jeep (PUJ) drivers under the Cebu Integrated Transport Cooperative (Citrasco) also plan to petition the LTFRB for an additional P5.50 on top of the minimum jeepney fare of P6.50.
This means that if approved, PUJ passengers are expected to pay P12 as minimum fare.
Citrasco chairman Ryan Benjamin Yu said they planned to file their fare increase petition before the LTFRB in Central Visayas either on Thursday or Friday.
There are at least 1,000 PUJ units in Cebu, he said.
Yu added that because of the excise tax on fuel, the drivers’ daily income would also be affected unless they implement a fare hike.
“I hope they (passengers) will understand that we are also affected by the Train Law,” he said.
Oil company PTT Philippines announced on Monday a price increase of 80 centavos per liter for gasoline and 55 centavos per liter to diesel effective on Tuesday.
For Jechel Serrano, 21, who commutes daily from his hometown Compostela to the architectural firm that he works for in Ramos Street, Cebu City, a P12 one way fare will be “too much.”
Serrano said that the gain that wage earners like him got from the income tax exemption provided under the Train Law will amount to nothing since the prices of all other basic commodities have also increased.
LTFRB-7 Director Ahmed Quizon, meanwhile, said he would wait for the filing of the fare hike petition from Citrasco.
“We will receive the petition and schedule a public hearing on it,” he said in a text message.
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