By Arjay L. Balinbin, Senior Reporter
TAXI OPERATORS in Metro Manila will ask the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) to allow them to increase the flag-down rate to P60 from the current P40, as drivers struggle to make ends meet due to rising fuel prices.
“They (taxi operators and drivers) want an increase of P20 to the current P40 flag-down rate,” said Jesus Manuel C. Suntay, president of the Philippine National Taxi Operators Association (PNTOA) and Quezon City congressman.
The petition will be filed by PNTOA “within this week,” he told BusinessWorld in a phone interview on Monday.
Fuel retailers on Tuesday slashed gasoline and diesel prices by P5.45 and P11.45 per liter, respectively, putting an end to 11 consecutive weeks of steadily increasing pump prices.
However, Mr. Suntay said the Tuesday rollback was not commensurate with the pump price increase implemented the previous week. Last week, fuel retailers raised gasoline and diesel prices by P7.10 and P13.15 per liter, respectively.
“If you look at it, since December, I think the increase has reached P24,” he added.
Mr. Suntay said taxi operators decided to seek a P20 increase in the flag-down rate, since it was the amount that “would have the lowest impact on the riding public while benefiting our drivers.”
According to data from the LTFRB, the number of active taxis plunged to 27,934 units as of October 2021 from the 50,059 taxis before the strict lockdown was implemented to curb the coronavirus outbreak in mid-March 2020.
As of now, Mr. Suntay estimated there are only around 16,000 active taxis in Metro Manila. “Many fleet operators sold their units due to pandemic restrictions and driver shortage.”
The government currently has a P2.5-billion fuel subsidy program for public utility vehicle operators and drivers. Another P2.5-billion budget is being prepared for the program, according to the Budget department. The program aims to support a total of 377,443 beneficiaries.
The LTFRB reported on Tuesday that more than 108,000 beneficiaries had received their P6,500 fuel subsidy.
Mr. Suntay said the subsidy distribution is “too slow.”
“The excise tax imposed on fuel products should be suspended. We believe that’s the fastest way to help the motorists,” he added.
The LTFRB is also hearing fare hike petitions from various jeepney and transport network vehicle service groups. It recently denied a petition to restore the minimum jeepney fare to P10 from P9. The petitioners filed a motion for reconsideration on Monday.
The transport regulator said the board is taking into account the government’s fuel subsidy and service contracting programs before making a decision on the fare hike petitions.