Videos of long lines of commuters filling up EDSA and other main thoroughfares have made the rounds on social media, demonstrating the worsening public transportation problem in Metro Manila amid skyrocketing fuel prices.
Clips shared by a certain John Michael Rodriguez on the Facebook group Commuters of the Philippines showed crowds of passengers on Metro Manila’s main roads trying to board packed buses or waiting for jeepneys to come, as fewer public utility vehicles ply the road due to exorbitant pump prices.
The steep increase in fuel rates this week — with gasoline increasing by PHP2.70 (US$0.05) and diesel rising by PHP6.55 (US$0.12) — is the latest news after months of relentless price hikes that have brought gasoline and diesel prices as high as PHP97.90 (US$1.85) and PHP99.45 (US$1.88) per liter respectively.
On Tuesday, Malacañang Palace urged jeepney operators and drivers not to halt operations this week as more Filipinos return to the office, and said that the government was finding ways to cushion the impact of fuel prices.
Yet transport groups maintained that the drivers are suffering from continuous fuel hikes and are no longer earning any money as fuel costs eat up their earnings, forcing operators to stop operations and cut their losses.
One group, Piston, reiterated their call for the government to suspend excise fuel taxes under the TRAIN (Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion) law, which were increased in a staggered schedule from 2018 to 2020 — a call that President Rodrigo Duterte has shot down, instead opting for fuel subsidies for public transport drivers.
The Philippines’ budget department released PHP3 billion (US$56.78 million) for fuel subsidies and fuel discount programs, with cash aid of PHP6,500 (US$123) meant to be distributed to drivers of public utility vehicles, as well as ride-hailing and delivery services.