A congressional leader asked the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board Tuesday to issue an official announcement and guidelines for its pronouncement that public utility buses would now be allowed to ply their routes without COVID-19 restrictions.
Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda, chair of the House committee on ways and means, wrote to LTFRB Chairman Martin Delgra following the latter’s statements to the House Ad Hoc Committee on the Fuel Crisis during its first hearing yesterday.
Meanwhile, an official of a transport group said they received reports that some jeepney drivers were already charging a P15 minimum fare even though the petition for fare increases was still pending.
Interviewed on GMA News’ Unang Balita, Liga ng Transportasyon at Operators sa Pilipinas (LTOP) president Orlando Marquez said drivers charged P15 to make a profit amid the continuous fuel price hikes.
LTOP is asking for a provisional increase in the minimum fare of P3 and P1 increase per succeeding kilometer, apart from asking to make the minimum fare P15.
LTFRB executive director Tina Cassion told reporters in a Viber group message the minimum fare for public utility jeepneys remained at P9.
Cassion said while the LTFRB has not yet released a final decision, “P9 is still the minimum fare.”
In a separate statement, the bureau said that as a result of the hearing, the Board, through its chairman Delgra, “manifested that the request for the grant of provisional adjustment to increase the minimum fare for PUJ service from P9.00 to P10.00 is now submitted for resolution by the Board.”
Sought for clarification, Cassion said the minimum fare remains at P9 since the provisional adjustment to P10 is only submitted for resolution.
The LTFRB conducted a hearing earlier in the day to hear the petitions of several transport groups to increase the minimum fare for PUJ services in the National Capital Region, Region 3, and Region 4.
Earlier, Salceda told Delgra in a letter: “I thank the LTFRB, under your leadership, for announcing during our hearing with the Ad Hoc Committee on the Fuel Crisis, that there are no longer any restrictions on public utility bus routes.”
“To follow up on this announcement, may I urge the LTFRB to issue an official announcement and guidelines on the matter,” he wrote.
The solon’s letter reiterates an appeal made to the country’s transport officials last week to reopen public transport routes to reduce the country’s private fuel consumption and soften transport cost hikes for workers.
“The public transport sector has also supported this call during our committee hearings,” Salceda said in subsequent comments.
Salceda also urged Delgra to allow public utility jeepneys to ply their full routes, following appeals from the PUJ sector and concerns that they are being barred from entering certain areas of the National Capital Region.
“Transport supply will definitely be less than transport demand as workers resume face-to-face work, and as onsite classes begin. The result, in this high oil price environment, is a lot of pain for workers and students, as well as for PUJ drivers,” he added.
In his letter to Delgra, Salceda also wrote that “PUJs, as you know, are better ventilated than buses, making them safer, in that respect, from COVID-19.”
“Public transport availability is also a critical component of the country’s strategy to mitigate the impacts of ongoing fuel price hikes. I trust that the LTFRB will maintain its publicly-pronounced commitments during the Ad Hoc Committee hearing.”
“There is no longer any plausible reason for the restrictions [on routes]. We already allow massive election rally crowds, face-to-face work, and classes, and we have dropped contact tracing requirements. Jeepney drivers should not be left behind in our burgeoning economic recovery,” Salceda said.
“Until the government can begin implementing adequate fuel subsidies, which was already promised but left unfulfilled as early as last year, reopening jeepney routes is the least the LTFRB can do,” Salceda wrote.
Marquez said: “We received reports that some jeepney drivers are charging P15 for minimum fare in the route of Cubao-Antipolo because they are not making profit anymore due to the high price of fuel.”
He slammed Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi for supposedly not facing them amid the struggle of the country due to fuel price hikes and for allegedly serving as spokesperson for oil companies.
There was no immediately available comment from Cusi.
In related developments, due to the series of increases in fuel prices, Marquez said some jeepney operators and drivers decided to stop their operations if the government would not assist them.
Petitioners 1-UTAK, PASANG MASDA, ALTODAP, and ACTO are asking for a provisional increase of P1 in the minimum fare or an increase of 11 percent, while the LTFRB is hearing their main petitions.
The groups’ main petition is for the LTFRB to increase the minimum fare by P5 to P14 and adjust the fare for succeeding kilometers after the first four kilometers from P1.50 to 2.50.