Text by Vinni Gandia and Khim Joshua Raymundo
Oil expenses consume one-third of the income of the Filipino jeepney driver, due to the rise of fuel prices.
This increase has caused UP-PhilCOA driver Melvin Ladran to struggle even more in budgeting his daily 800-peso earnings for his five children.
The oil excise tax increase imposed earlier this year has heavily reduced the income of transport sector workers, especially public utility jeepney (PUJ) drivers like Ladran.
The second round of oil excise tax hike under the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law began in 2019, adding a fixed P2 on both gasoline and diesel prices.
Excise tax is a fixed amount added to the price of any particular item, depending on the quantity.
“May time na mangungutang rin ako kasi nga nagpapaaral ako. Syempre, ‘yung [pantustos sa pag-aaral], hindi mo naman agad makukuha sa isang pasada o sa isang araw ‘yung kita mo para sa kanila. Mga ilang araw ko ring pag-iipunan ‘yun,” Ladran said.
The average earnings of the PUJ drivers were reduced by P169 last year, due to the fuel excise tax increase in 2018, according to IBON Foundation, a non-profit development organization.
“Ang pinakaapektado talaga rito sa pagtaas ng presyo ng langis ay mga drivers. Kasi mabilis ang pagtaas ng diesel prices, pero mabagal ang pagtaas ng fares,” IBON Foundation Executive Director Sonny Africa said.
In October last year, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board approved the P10 minimum fare after jeepney drivers held a transport strike demanding a P2-hike. The last fare hike before that happened in February 2017, when it went up from P7 to P8.
Under the provision of the TRAIN Law, the tax will be suspended if the global price average reaches $80 or roughly P4,000 per barrel in the last three months of the year.
However, Africa said that tax suspension would be meaningless by 2020 since the law only covers January 2018 to January 2020.
He added that the said provision will not trigger the suspension of tax increase even if oil prices reach $1 million per barrel.
UV express driver Rolly Mario, 50, noted that the funds collected from the excise tax are not allotted for public service.
“Simula noong nagkaroon ng dagdag-buwis sa gasolina, almost 140 [pesos] ‘yung nabawas sa dapat naming kikitain sa buong araw. Pwede na ‘yun pambili ng gatas ng anak ko. Parang inagawan ng gobyerno ng gatas ‘yung bata,” Mario said.
UP Economics Professor Agustin Arcenas said that the provision on oil tax suspension in the TRAIN law aims to prevent too much inflation that could cause economic instability.
“[Kung hindi isususpend ‘yung tax], people will feel very poor kasi hihina ‘yung purchasing power nila. Who knows how people are going to react on too much poverty?,” Arcenas said.
However, Africa stressed the said provision has no intentions to help people in the lower income class.
“Alam ng Department of Finance na pabigat siya sa mga mahihirap, at nagpapagaan siya sa mga mayayaman; kailangan nila na maglagay ng ilang provisions [kagaya ng tax suspension] na mag-de-decorate ng TRAIN to moderate the effects or to make it come out na hindi ganoon kasama,” Africa said.
The TRAIN law is the primary cause of the 38% increase of the diesel cost and 53% in the gasoline since 2018, according to IBON Foundation.
They said that the global oil rates have undue impact on the economy due to the Philippines’ over-dependence on imported fuel as source of energy.
Mario, meanwhile, said that the government should impose segregate fuel tax provision on public vehicles. He also suggested that the additional fuel excise tax should only cover private vehicles.
“‘Yung mga public na sasakyan katulad ng taxi, jeep, ay hindi dapat kasama sa TRAIN law. Kasi kitang-kita naman natin kung saan napupunta ‘yung buwis na ambag natin sa gasolina eh. Sa taumbayan ba? Hindi naman,” Mario added.
Effects on other industries
Besides members of the transport sector, Africa said that farmers and fishermen are also affected by the oil tax hike since they use fuel for their machines, increasing the cost of production.
As they struggle with inflationary effects of TRAIN, they are also forced to compete with cheaper imported goods.
“Syempre, kapag tumaas ‘yung cost of production nila, hindi naman nila pwedeng itaas na lang bigla ‘yung presyo ng mga produkto nila kasi baka naman wala nang bumili,” Africa said.
He added that there would be no immediate effect on vendors of agricultural and aquatic products because their services do not require fuel consumption.
Rogel Gagarin, a vegetable vendor in UP, said that the oil tax hike has no immediate effect to his business yet. He added that the price increase of his products usually occurs during calamities when the production of agricultural goods is damaged.
However, Linda Lingad, a 58-year-old vendor of coconut products in Kamuning Public Market, gradually felt the effects of the additional tax on fuel in the form of delivery fee increase of her goods.
“Dumoble kasi ‘yung singil sa amin ng nag-de-deliver. Saan namin kukunin ‘yung pambayad doon? Syempre napipilitan kaming itaas ‘yung presyo ng paninda namin,” Lingad said. TNP