Here we go again. The fare for riding buses and jeeps have gone up a couple of pesos. No doubt more fare adjustments are to follow in the coming weeks.
I can’t even blame the operators for it. I don’t have the hard numbers and statistics available but it is obvious from the current rise of the prices of the gasoline products that a fare hike would have necessarily followed.
Is this it though? Is there nothing to be done? Well no. This would be an extremely short and boring blog post if that was the case. Our problem isn’t the gas. I think our transport industry could actually absorb higher gas prices. If , and its a big if, it was handled more efficiently.
Next time you go out try and commute in the middle of the day. Look at the jeeps and buses on the road. Look at your own ride. Yes. That’s right. They are less than half full! In some cases jeeps are making runs with four to five passengers. How can any industry make profits like that? They are calculated to make a profit on runs when the vehicle is full, yet this is only true less than one fourth of the time. The only time they can expect this is on the morning and evening rush hours. Most of the time it costs them more money than they make to run. They would actually make more money if they just shut down the jeep and take a nap.
The problem is they just have too much competition. With the number of buses, jeeps, taxis and the MRT running there is just not enough passengers to go around. The amazing part is more and more of these public utility vehicles are getting approved day by day!
We actually have two organizations already setup to regulate and assist these drivers. First we have the LTFRB. The Land Transportation Franchising REGULATORY Board. It is their function to manage the total number of jeeps applying per route. Too any jeeps and you have what is happening now where they lose more money per run and too little and we have passengers who are not serviced. Notice the word regulatory? The reason why the whole word is in bold is because the LTFRB does not do this. They just hand out franchises to any operator who can pay the fee. It is not hard to understand why they do so. Franchises are one of their sources of income. More money is good for them, therefore they offer as many franchises as they can to make as much money as they can.
The next group is their party lists. Piston and whatever other groups exist that promote the welfare of this sector and represent them in congress. Surely this group, if nobody else, will act in the best interests of the drivers and promote regulation, right? Well no. Not really. A party lists seats in congress is determined by the amount of votes it gets. The more votes, the more seats. Let us examine it logically. What would be more likely to vote for a PUV rights group? A sales lady? A PUV driver? or a call center agent? Yup you got it right. A PUV driver. Which means it is in the party lists interest to keep increasing the number of PUV drivers in the country. After all more votes means more seats and congressional funding (pork barrel) for their activities.
I actually find this fascinating. You have a group whose supposed to represent the PUV’s and whose membership is mostly based on the drivers as well, yet the party list’s interests as a whole directly contradict the interests of the people it represents. It is a wonder that the drivers support them at all.
Are the PUV drivers screwed? After all the deck is heavily stacked against them. All the organizations that are there to safeguard them have a vested interest in seeing them fail. If you have read my previous blog posts on philosophy, you will know that I always advocate doing things for your self. Now that you know the current organizations are not helpful to you, what do you do? You start your own! Talk with the various unions and make an organization independent of the party list. There is nothing stopping you from voting for them when election time comes but till then present your demands to them and make sure they work for your best interests in the meantime.
In a perfect world the first thing that needs to happen is to immediately reduce the number of PUVs in our streets. But I do recognize that that is not possible. There would simply be no work for the displaced drivers to do.
So you do the next best thing. You block any new people from entering the industry. It would take some time to work and a government subsidy may be required in the short term. However in the long run natural attrition (PUV drivers retiring or moving to different jobs) and expanding population (new commuters) will ensure that PUVs will be reasonably full for each trip. Without waiting hours for that last passenger. Commuters should be happy when prices stabilize. Even the general population would be happier with less vehicles on the streets. If only the current institutions actually stood up for the PUV’s.