June 22, 2022
MANILA – Around 26,000 provincial bus workers, including drivers, have lost their jobs since only a limited number of buses are being dispatched in light of the continuing increase in fuel prices, the Senate energy committee learned on Tuesday.
The committee, led by Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, held a consultative meeting with concerned government agencies and stakeholders in the energy sector in light of the surging prices of fuel.
“We in the bus sector are affected by the rise in the price of diesel. The last fare increase we had was in October 2018. And in May and June of this year, the toll fee we pay whenever we enter Manila increased. The toll fee increased by about 6 percent,” Alex Yague, executive director of the Provincial Bus Operators’ Association of the Philippines, told the panel in Filipino.
According to Yague, only 20 to 30 percent of provincial buses are currently operating.
This means 5,600 buses are not operating, affecting some 26,000 to 28,000 workers, including drivers, conductors, and ticket sellers, he said.
“In provincial buses, we have not only drivers but also conductors. We also have allied workers. They are those who work in terminals — dispatchers, ticket sellers, and mechanics. We maintain them. So we have four to five employees per bus who we have to maintain. So, we’re talking of about… around 26,000 to 28,000 employees are affected,” Yague told senators.
In response, Gatchalian asked: “Twenty-six thousand more or less lost their jobs because of the price of fuel?”
“Yes, sir. More or less, sir,” Yague said.
Meanwhile, Yague proposed two “non-revenue solutions” to help ease the burden of provincial bus operators.
One of them is to allow operators to use their own terminals in Metro Manila.
“The policy of the LTFRB that directs us to use the integrated terminal affects us a lot because then have non-revenue kilometers,” he said.
The LTFRB stands for the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board.
Yague likewise sought the review of the Department of Transportation’s modernization program, saying a unit should be phased out based on its roadworthiness instead.
“If your bus is already 15 years old, you can no longer use that. But then we have this pandemic. So we were not able to use the buses for two years. Now the LTFRB gave us some leeway: The 2007 buses can be registered for another two years,” he said.
“Maybe we can review our program. Instead of age being the basis of a phaseout, let’s base it on roadworthiness,” he added.
Yague said these are “win-win” solutions since these would enable operators to cut operational costs in order to survive and prevent them from raising their fares.
‘Plan for the worst’
Meanwhile, Gatchalian stressed the need to “plan for the worst” as fuel prices continued to increase.
Gatchalian pointed to three proposed solutions being floated to cushion the impact of high fuel costs:
the “Pantawid Pasada” program, which he said should be implemented more expeditiously
the suspension of the excise tax on fuel
increasing the country’s biofuel blend
“This is a recap of the possible solutions. We are going to come up with another round of Pantawid Pasada, with the condition that it should be distributed immediately and efficiently. And we are calling on the LTFRB to efficiently distribute the next round of Pantawid Pasada,” Gatchalian said before closing the meeting.
“I have heard earlier that the database is already in place considering that they already distributed these various times. So we are calling on LTFRB to be more expeditious in terms of the distribution,” he added.