Oil price hike ‘a cruel joke’

Published by rudy Date posted on April 2, 2009

MANILA, Philippines – The militant transport group Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide (Piston) condemned yesterday the latest increase in the prices of diesel and unleaded gasoline, branding it as a cruel “April Fools Day joke” played by oil firms on motorists and consumers.

Piston secretary general George San Mateo said the excessive increase in the price of fuel is another manifestation of the oil firms’ greed for profits.

“When crude oil prices in the world market are going up by a little, they are very fast in hiking pump prices of diesel and unleaded gasoline but very slow in rolling back pump prices when crude oil prices are plummeting,” he said.

San Mateo said this situation highlighted the importance of scrapping the oil deregulation law, which he said gave oil firms the power to set oil prices.

“The consecutive oil price hikes in just 11 days has raised the price of diesel by P2.80 per liter and unleaded gas by P3.50 per liter. That is too much, too soon,” he said.

San Mateo said what is worse is that the government fails to take action against the oil firms for raising their prices. “The government is an accomplice of the oil companies in raising oil prices since it benefits also with higher e-vat (expanded value-added tax) collection on oil products,” he said.

Commuters fight back

The National Council for Commuters Protection (NCCP) yesterday warned they would seek the cancellation of franchises of bus and jeepney operators who will join a planned national transport strike.

The Alliance of Concerned Transport Organizations (ACTO) is set to stage a nationwide strike tomorrow to protest the implementation of a Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) order increasing the fines on erring drivers caught violating traffic rules.

“(Holding a) transport strike is a violation of their franchise to operate. We will file the necessary case with the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB),” Vicente Millora, NCCP chairman, told The STAR.

Millora said the transport group is hitting the wrong target if they push through with their strike. “Why punish the commuters for the high fines of traffic violations?” he asked.

He said the transport group should bring their grievances to the right forum and not to the streets, where they will violate the rights of the commuters to travel.

Millora clarified that among the conditions of the franchise is to ensure that commuters reach their respective destinations.

NCCP president Elvira Medina said their organization will do everything to prevent the strike.

“We will impose the Cessation of Service with Authority from the LTFRB for violation of terms and condition of franchise,” she said.

Strike to push through

ACTO national president Efren de Luna said the transport strike will be staged by some 100,000 public utility vehicles – jeeyneys, FXs, and taxicabs – affiliated with their group.

“We are also inviting other transport groups to join us in the strike,” he said.

Calling the increased amount of fines as “inhumane,” De Luna said it would seriously burden public utility drivers.

He said DOTC Order 2008-39 increased by almost 200 percent fines imposed on violations committed by drivers of public utility vehicles such as wearing slippers, disregarding traffic signs and loading passengers not in designated places.

De Luna said that from the previous fine of P150 for the first offense, the amount has been raised to P1,000. A second offense is punishable with a P1,500 fine and suspension of driver’s license for two months.

The third offense is punishable with a P2,000 fine and six-month suspension of driver’s license and the fourth offense is punishable with a P5,000 fine and revocation of license.

De Luna’s group is calling for the suspension of the order since the House of Representatives is reportedly planning to conduct a public hearing on the new DOTC order.

“Apart from Congress, the LTO (Land Transportation Office) is also conducting public hearings in the provinces so the order should really be put on hold,” he said. “We would like to know what the DOTC’s basis was in issuing this order.”

According to De Luna, around 1,000 drivers affiliated with his group have been apprehended with the increased fines since the LTO received the order in October last year. -– Rainier Allan Ronda with Perseus Echeminada, Reinir Padua, Philippine Star

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