LTFRB amenable to hiking bus fares but needs NEDA opinion first

Jacque Manabat, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 28 2022 03:35 PM

Commuters line up to ride the EDSA Bus Carousel at the Roosevelt station in Quezon City on July 1, 2022. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News
Commuters line up to ride the EDSA Bus Carousel at the Roosevelt station in Quezon City on July 1, 2022. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News


MANILA - The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) said on Thursday it was amenable to raising bus fares, but will first seek the opinion of the National Economic and Development Authority before deciding.

“Personally, I recognize na talagang kailangan ng increase, but we will find that balance nga kasi mahirap naman na basta basta ka mag-increase without any basis," said LTFRB chairman Cheloy Garafil. 

(Personally, I recognize that there is a need for an increase, but we will find that balance because we don't want to approve an increase without any basis.)

He said this is why they need to get NEDA's opinion for a "reasonable rate adjustment."

The Provincial Bus Operators Association of the Philippines (PBOAP) seeks an increase in fares by 30 to 35 centavos per kilometer, or an additional P2.20 to P2.50. For a 100-kilometer trip, commuters will have to add P30 from their current fare. 

Meanwhile, the city bus groups are asking for a P4 to P7-peso increase in their base fare for the first 5 kilometers. If approved, commuters will have to pay the minimum fare of P20 instead of P13 for air-conditioned units and P15 from P11 for ordinary buses. The bus operators' group filed the petition in May.

A commuters group joined the hearing Thursday morning and said they are not opposed to increasing the bus fares. But the Lawyers for Commuters' Safety and Protection (LCSP) urged the LTFRB to find a "reasonable" amount so as not to further burden the public. 

“Kinikilala namin na talagang kailangan magkaroon ng increase ano. Pero ang sunod na tanong, 'magkano 'yung increase?' Sa nakita namin sa petition medyo natataasan po kami baka medyo hindi makaya ng commuters. Pangalawa kung sakaling ibibigay 'yung dagdag pasahe, ano 'yung balik sa pasahero?" LCSP spokesperson Ariel Inton said.

(We recognize that there is a need to increase fares. But the next question is, "how much is the increase?" Based on what we saw in the petition, it's a bit high, and commuters may not be able to afford it. Second, if the fare hike is granted, what is the benefit to commuters?)

"Mababalik ba ang units? Masusunod ba ang health protocols? Mababawasan ba ang hirap ng ating mga commuters?" he added. 

(Can units be returned? Will the health protocols be followed? Can it ease the struggles of our commuters?)

Some bus commuters meanwhile said they are not in favor of fare hikes as fuel prices have been going down for several weeks now. 

“Hindi naman tama 'yung mababa ang gasolina tapos mataas pamasahe," Raquel Talavera, a commuter, said.

“Bumaba 'yung gasolina tapos tataas 'yung pamasahe eh napaka-unfair nun. 'Yung mga tao pahirapan na sa sahod. 'Yung sahod di pa naman pasok sa budget!” bus rider Aya Ismael added.

LACK OF BUSES ON THE ROAD

Some also asked LTFRB to probe the lack of bus units on busy roads. Some commuters have complained of long waits and bus queues in Metro Manila.

“Kasi tuwing uuwi ako, kulang talaga 'yung bus,” Raffy Guiampaca, a city bus passenger said.

(Whenever I go home, there seems a shortage of buses.)

The bus operators meanwhile acknowledged that fewer buses have been plying the streets. They said the impact of the pandemic and high fuel costs prompted some bus operators to reduce the number of buses on the road to cut losses.

“Ang dahilan talaga ay sa fuel costs tumaas, nag-doble ang presyo namin kaya kailangan namin bumawi,” Samahan ng Transport Operators ng Pilipinas spokesperson Juliet de Jesus said.

(The reason really is the rise of fuel cost, it doubled so we need to recover.)

“Siguro maintindihan kami ng commuters kasi pare-pareho kaming naghihirap ngayon dahil sa pandemic baka pag di kami susuportahan ay baka wala silang masakyan,” de Jesus added.

(We hope commuters understand our situation as we're all bearing the brunt of the pandemic. If they don't support us, maybe they won't have any more buses to ride.)

The LTFRB said they will factor in the lack of buses in their decision on the fare hike petition.

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