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Amidst Increasing Oil Prices, 26,000 Provincial Bus Workers Have Lost Their Jobs

We should plan for the worst.
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The Philippines' public transportation systems are crumbling under the weight of surging oil prices. And the ones most affected are our public transport workers. The Senate energy committee learned of the severity of the situation last Tuesday, June 21, when it was reported that around 26,000 provincial bus employees have lost their jobs during the crisis.

In a consultative meeting about the state of the energy industry, a representative of the sector confirmed these numbers to a panel that included Senator Sherwin "Win" Gatchalian, who happens to be chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy.

"Affected po kami ng pagtaas ng price ng diesel. Ang last price increase po namin ay October 2018 and nitong May and June of this year, nag-increase na po ang toll fee namin. 'Pag papasok po kayo ng Manila, nag-increase po ng six percent ang toll fee," expressed Provincial Bus Operators’ Association of the Philippines Executive Director Alex Yague.

He added: "Starting June po, Mr. Chairman, nag-increase po ang minimum wages all over the country. Kami lang po ang transport sector, sa bus, na ang sweldo namin ay based sa hourly wages."

Only a limited number of buses are out on the road these days, as well. The sector is only at about a 20- to 30-percent capacity. This has effectively led to thousands of jobs lost, all because of the price of fuel.

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"Hindi lang po drivers, meron pong kundoktor. Meron din po kaming mga allied workers. Ito po 'yung mga nagtatrabaho sa terminal, mga dispatcher, terminal ticket sellers, at mekaniko...So meron pong four to five employees per bus na kailangan po naming i-maintain. So we're talking of about, cinompute ko po kanina, around 26,000 po or 28,000 employees," he added.

Yague had noted two possible "non-revenue" solutions to the sector's woes. One of which is to allow operators to use their own terminals in Metro Manila. The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) typically directs them to use the integrated terminal.

The executive director also suggested to review the Department of Transportation (DOT)’s modernization program. Currently, buses only have a capacity to operate until 15 years under the policy. The LTFRB, at the very least, allowed them some leeway because of the pandemic. Buses from 2007 can still be registered for another two years. Yague appealed to the committee to look at the "roadworthiness" of their buses instead of age.

Sen. Gatchalian, on the other hand, expressed his confidence in a revamped “Pantawid Pasada” program and suspending excise tax on fuel. He also hopes to see the country increase its biofuel blend.

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