TRANSPORT SECTOR workers need fixed wages to cope with increasing oil prices, which is seen to be aggravated by the attack on Ukraine by Russia, a major oil producer, a transport group said on Sunday.

“The multiple threats to our transport sector workers require an ambitious government response,” the National Confederation of Transport Workers Unions – Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (NCTU-SENTRO) said in an e-mailed statement. 

The group is calling for the adoption of service contracting as a dedicated government program.

“With service contracting, our transport drivers and operators will receive fixed wages in order to cover regular routes that will be identified at both the national and local government levels,” it said. 

Under the service contracting program, drivers and operators of public utility vehicles are paid by the government to ply their routes on a per kilometer basis. Currently, the program is meant to offset the effects of the capacity restrictions prompted by the coronavirus pandemic. 

“The recent escalation of tensions between Russia and Ukraine has contributed to the continuous rise of oil prices this year. As the cost of oil is not expected to change in the immediate future, ordinary Filipinos have already begun to be affected,” NCTU-SENTRO said. 

“This and the possible increase in the cost of other basic commodities are a constant concern for many households, especially for those in the transport sector,” it added. 

Brent crude surged over $100 for the first time since 2014 on Thursday last week after Russia launched its military assault on Ukraine. 

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas said Dubai crude oil would average $83.3 per barrel this year, but would slow down to $79 by December. 

Under the General Appropriations Act of 2022, the budget for the fuel subsidy program can only be released when the average Dubai crude oil price based on the Mean of Platts Singapore reaches or exceeds $80 per barrel for three consecutive months. 

“We call on the government to provide the necessary support to augment the wages and incomes of working people,” the NCTU-SENTRO said. 

The Presidential Palace on Feb. 18 said the Department of Transportation and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) had both submitted the necessary documents to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) for the fuel subsidy.

In the request submitted to the DBM, 377,443 beneficiaries will receive P6,500 each for fuel subsidy, the LTFRB said in a statement. 

Beneficiaries include operators of public utility jeepneys, bus, mini bus, taxis, UV Express, transport network vehicle service, tourist transport service, tricycles, and delivery services. — Arjay L. Balinbin