Transport group PISTON said that the volatile price of fuel in the country, coupled with the congested commuter lines and insufficient public transport, stresses the need for the national government to immediately take steps to fix the highly inefficient mass transport problems in the country, especially in the National Capital Region (NCR).
Fuel prices are expected to increase tomorrow with diesel prices getting an estimated P2 per liter increase after weeks of rollbacks. This compounds with record-high inflation, an overall transport crisis, worsening poverty, and a lack of government assistance to poor Filipino families. For PISTON, the Marcos Jr administration should start taking responsibility to ease the socioeconomic crisis’s effects on ordinary Filipinos’ lives.
PISTON national president Mody Floranda stressed that rather than always waiting for the price of oil in the international market to plunge, the government should assert its regulatory authority over the local price of fuel by certifying as urgent the House Bill 400 or the “lowering the price of oil and other petroleum products” bill filed by Makabayan bloc on June 30, 2022. “Kung ang kaduda-dudang Maharlika Fund, nagawang ipasa ng Kongreso sa loob lang ng 17 araw dahil lang pinamadali ni Marcos Jr, bakit natatagalan silang magpasa ng mga mas makabuluhang batas na magpapagaan sa gastusin ng mamamayan? Kailangan ng administrasyong itong ayusin ang kanilang mga prayoridad,” added Floranda.
Solving the transport crisis requires more than rail, infrastructure
The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Sec. Arsenio Balisacan recently said that the Marcos Jr administration’s priority solution to the transport crisis is developing more railways in various areas including the Metro Manila Subway project which they believe will help steer development to so-called “lagging” regions outside NCR.
For PISTON, while these expansive mass transport projects can provide faster trips across longer distances, most Filipino commuters, especially low-income Filipinos, still rely on jeepneys as an affordable mode of transportation for short distances or the first or last miles. “Kaya dapat palakasin din ng gobyerno ang ating mga small-capacity PUV tulad ng mga jeepney,” said Floranda. “Imbis na i-phaseout at tanggalan ng kabuhayan ang libo-libong tsuper at operator para palitan ng mga napaka-mahal na imported mini-bus na pinapalakad ng mga korporasyon, ang wastong pagpapatupad ng PUV Modernization ay ang pagpapalakas sa lokal nating manupaktura para mag-rehabilitate ng mga jeepney para maging mas malinis at komportable. Sa ganung paraan, makakamura ang mga maliliit na operator kumpara kung pipilitin silang mabaon sa utang para bumili ng imported mini-bus, at masusuportahan pa ang lokal na industriya na ang epekto ay pagdami ng trabaho para sa mga manggagawang Pilipino.”
Furthermore, prioritizing large-scale transport infrastructure projects seems like a good thing. However, it has always been questionable if these deliver the best economic and development returns given the huge foreign debt taken out to build these projects. The group said that in the context of the worsening transport crisis, large-scale infrastructure projects are less urgent than adding more PUVs on the road, increasing their routes to service more commuters, supporting PUV drivers and small operators, implementing a genuine and pro-people modernization program that doesn’t displace drivers and small operators, and reducing the volume of private vehicles in the most congested streets.
“Kailangang bumaba ng gobyerno sa lebel ng mamamayan para makita nila kung nasaan talaga ang problema. Hindi pwedeng mag-antay lang ang Pilipino nang anim hanggang sampung taon para sa mga bagong riles kung taon-taon eh palala nang palala ang lagay ng ating mga komyuter at ng mga tsuper sa kalsada.” said Floranda.