As petrol and diesel prices across the country increased, public utility vehicle drivers and operators, fishermen, and food delivery riders were some of those who directly feel and shoulder the added burden. 

The continued northward march of oil prices has hindered the country’s effort to fester the wounds in its economy caused by the pandemic and prolonged lockdowns. When the lockdown was imposed, there was an estimate of 3 million people who went jobless, while the country has recorded ten (10) straight weeks of oil price hike which definitely took its toll in the public transportation sector in the Philippines. Filipinos are still trying to get back up, but the terrible effects of successive increases in oil prices is stopping them like a quicksand.

Since January of this year up until November, the country has experienced an increase amounting to P20.80 pesos per liter in gasoline prices, P18.45 pesos in diesel and P16.04 in prices of kerosene. This has brought the current retail prices of unleaded gasoline and regular diesel in Metro Manila to soar up to P70.44 per liter and P50.17 per liter respectively.

According to the data from the Department of Energy (DOE), there has been no interruption in the weekly price increase in oil prices since August 31.

Aside from that, oil prices also started to rise in August as energy firms began shutting down US production due to Hurricane Ida’s landfall. Following the hurricane’s landfall, at least 94 percent of US oil production in the Gulf of Mexico, or around 1.7 million barrels per day of crude production, remained offline.

Based on the forecasts that the DOE releases, global oil demand in the fourth quarter of this year is expected to hit as much as 103 million barrels of crude oil per day (mbpd) in anticipation of the winter season. However, oil supply is currently only at about 103.22 mbpd.

DOE also said that at least 24.27 percent of gas production remained offline as of September 23, with full recovery not expected to resume until the first quarter of the year 2022.

For the government, this is a vital step to economic recovery, but for the Filipino workers who earn below minimum wage this is a loss of income that they could’ve spent on food.

‘Where are we going to get our everyday necessities if there is a successive increase in oil prices?’

Due to the pandemic, public utility vehicles were ordered by the Inter-Agency Task Force to limit their passenger capacity to 50% which resulted in drastic loss of income. On November 4, the passenger capacity for rail lines and selected public utility vehicles was raised to 70%.

Still, the continuous rise in gasoline prices burdens the jeepney drivers.

“Kahit na naging 70% na ‘yung passenger capacity, hindi pa rin sapat ang kinikita ng mga tsuper dahil sa tuloy-tuloy na pagtaas ng presyo ng petrolyo,” said National President Mody Floranda of the Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (PISTON).

[Even though we were allowed to have a 70% passenger capacity, jeepney drivers’ income was still not enough due to the successive increases in oil prices.]

Floranda said that jeepney drivers allot P 336 every day for a 20-liter gasoline consumption, which is equivalent to P 8400 in 25 days.

“Sa ngayon, P 300-400 ang naiuuwi ng drivers (kada araw), pero noong wala pang pandemya, P700-1000. ‘Yung napakataas na ginagastos para sa gasolina ay panggastos na sana sa pangunahing pangangailangan tulad ng pagkain, tubig, kuryente at para sa edukasyon ng mga anak. Doon (sa gasolina) lang napupunta ang dapat nauuwi sa pamilya,” Floranda added.

[Most days, jeepney drivers take home P 300-400 per day, but before the pandemic they were able to earn P 700-1000. The money that they pay for the gasoline could’ve been allocated to basic necessities like food, water, electricity and their children’s education. The money that they could’ve taken home for their family ends up in their gasoline expenses.]

According to data from the DOE last November 9, the successive increase in oil prices resulted in a total net price increase of P20.95, P17.50, and P15.09 per liter of gasoline, diesel, and kerosene respectively.

On October 19, the DOE said that the reason behind the rising oil prices are the tight supply in the international world market and high demand.

“Noong um-attend kami sa hearing ng congress, ayon sa DOE , mataas ang presyo dahil mataas ang demand […] pero hindi naman tayo lingguhan o buwanan nag-aangkat (ng langis) kaya dapat kahit tumaas ‘yung presyo ng barrel sa international market, hindi tayo maapektuhan agad kasi 6-7 months ang pagitan natin (bago mag-angkat ulit). Pero dahil sa mga batas tulad ng Oil Deregulation Law nawalan ng mandatory power ang gobyerno para controlin ang presyo (ng petrolyo) sa bansa,” Floranda stated.

[When we attended a hearing in congress, DOE said that there is an increase in prices due to high demand in the international market. However, we don’t import (oil) every week or every month so even if the price in the international market goes up, we should not be immediately affected because there is a 6 to 7-month interval in importation. Due to laws like the Oil Deregulation Law, the government lost its mandatory power to control the prices of oil in the country.]

Republic Act No. 8479 or the Oil Deregulation Law allowed for the private sector will have more control in the prices of oil products. Due to the passing of the Oil Deregulation Law, the prices of oil products only continued to spike up.

In a letter from the DOE dated October 18, the DOE asked the Congress to amend the Oil Deregulation Law by “providing a framework for the government to intervene and address” oil price hikes.

Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi also said that they want to set certain limits to protect the public since oil is an important commodity.

“Just like when the Bayanihan Law was passed, there was a provision to suspend the implementation of the excise tax kung papalo ng over $80 per barrel in the world market. [..] So baka pe-pwede na on cases like that, the DOE will have the authority to move for the suspension of excise tax so we can have certain measures,” Cusi said in an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel.

[Just like when the Bayanihan Law was passed, there was a provision to suspend the implementation of the excise tax if the fuel price reaches over $80 per barrel in the world market. […] So maybe on cases like that, the DOE will have the authority to move for the suspension of excise tax so we can have certain measures.]

Floranda, together with PISTON, called for the temporary suspension or complete removal of excise tax.

“Tuloy-tuloy ang pakikipagtalastasan sa kongreso at protesta na panawagang bumaba ang presyo ng petrolyo para makaagapay sa maliit na kita ng drivers at operators,” he said.

[We continue to dialogue with Congress and protest to call for lowering of petroleum prices to help our drivers and operators with their small income.]

Considering the fact that the price and demand of crude in the world market played a huge role in the successive oil price hike, the Philippines did not also make it any easier as VAT and excise tax was added to the price of oil products, causing the overall price to be more costly.

Floranda said that jeepney drivers’ and operators’ income keep on decreasing while the prices of basic necessities and gasoline increases. The effect of this, he said, doesn’t only concern the motorists but every citizen in the country.

“Saan pa kukuha ng pang-araw araw (na pangangailangan) kung tuloy tuloy pagtaas? ‘Di makasabay ung kakarampot na kinikita ng mga manggagawa,” Floranda added.

[Where are we going to get our everyday necessities if there is a successive increase in oil prices? Workers can’t keep up with their scanty wages.]

On TNVS drivers and operators’ situation

The recent consecutive increases in oil prices have taken its toll not only on Public Utility Vehicle (PUV) drivers, but also in other sectors such as the different food delivery services in the country.

GrabFood and Food Panda are considered as two of the biggest and most used online food delivery service applications all over the country. While being able to continue their services amidst the pandemic and different lockdown restrictions, the recent spike in oil prices have affected the daily earnings of its delivery riders, where the majority uses their motorcycle as their delivery vehicle.

Ken De Guzman, 22, has been a GrabFood delivery partner for almost a year now. Despite being a graduating student, he chose to work as a food delivery rider to help his family in terms of their expenses amidst the pandemic.

When asked about the effects of the recent increase in oil prices in terms of his earnings, De Guzman said that while there is no massive difference, the effects are still felt as he had to adjust his daily budget so that he can still provide for his family.

“Siguro yung parang extra money ko, yung sa pang araw-araw na pocket money, doon ko nalang in-adjust yung nabawas dahil sa pagtaas ng gas. Kasi yung sa pang grocery dito sa bahay pati sa ipon, hindi pwedeng mabawasan yun e,” De Guzman shared.

[My pocket money for every day, that’s where I adjusted the loss income due to the increase in my gas budget because the money for groceries and savings cannot be reduced.]

De Guzman also provided some details on how much was added in terms of his gas budget for his motorcycle.

“Ang full tank ng Mio ko, nasa P 150 lang ata dati, halos umapaw na motor ko. Eh ngayon halos 230-250 na full tank, depende pa kung saan ako magpapa-gas. Yung P 150 ngayon parang halos kalahati nalang e. Malaki din talaga tinaas ng presyo ng gas.”

[The full tank of my Mio before was only 150 pesos, but now, it costs 230-250 pesos, that still depends on where I am going to fill my tank. 150 pesos today will just barely give you half full, the prices of gas really spiked up.]

Due to experiencing a decrease in his daily earnings due to the continuous spike in oil prices, De Guzman, together with other food delivery riders, share the sentiment that the prices of oil products should be controlled.

“Normal yung ganyan na tataas-bababa yung presyo pero kapag ganyan na sunod sunod na, dapat kontrolin muna nila. O kaya imbis na isang bagsakan ng taas, unti-untiin nalang para di naman masyadong ramdam.”

[It is normal for the prices of gas to change from time to time, but if there is successive increases, the prices should be controlled. Or they can increase the price little by little so that the increase in the price will not be felt immediately.]

Small fisherfolks are among the hardest hit by rising prices of oil products in the country. 

Small fisherfolks are among the hardest hit by rising prices of oil products in the country. 

Fernando “Ka Pando” Hicap, national chairperson of Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA), a group of small fisherfolks fighting for genuine and pro-people fisheries reform, shared how the increase in oil prices affects small-scale fishing operations. 

“Dahil nga doon sa pagtaas ng [presyo ng] gasolina, ang tendensiya kapag nalugi yung kanilang paglaot, sa susunod nilang paglaot [ay] magbabawas sila ng oras. Actually, ang regular na laot ng mga mangingisda aabot yan sa 8-10 oras e bawat palaot […] pero dahil doon sa pagtaas [ng presyo] ng gasolina, nababawasan yan,” said Hicap.

[Because of the oil price hike, the tendency when they experience loss in their fishing operation is they will lessen the hours of their succeeding trip. Actually, a regular fishing trip usually takes 8-10 hours. But because of the price increase, it becomes less.]

He added that it also poses limitations on how far they can reach per fishing trip. 

“Kung dati ay sampung litro yung gamit nila, sa susunod ay baka walong litro na lamang. Kaya yung dalawang litrong mawawala ay malaking katumbas yun sa pagliit o pagkitid na ng kanilang pangisdaan dahil doon sa limitasyon ng gasolina,” he said.

[If before, they consume 10 liters, they might cut their gasoline consumption to only 8 liters on their next trip. That’s why this 2-liter slash is tantamount to decreasing the size of their fishing area because of gasoline limitations.]

These restraints result in loss of income among fisherfolk families. 

According to Hicap, despite the rise in oil prices, the cost of fish being bought from them will not go high as traders and fish ports are the ones who set the price, not them.

“Kaya mayroon pang karanasan na binabarat yung mga maliliit na mangingisda, ang dahilan ay pagtaas ng gastos ng mga traders doon sa gasolina at krudo na ginagamit nila sa pag-transport ng kanilang binibiling isda. Kaya wala pong maaasahan ang mga maliliit na mangingisda, na ‘pag tumaas ang presyo ng gasolina ay tataas yung bili sa huli ng mga maliliit na mangingisda. Wala pong katotohanan ‘yun at ‘di magaganap ‘yun dahil umiiral yung monopolyo sa produksyon sa industriya ng pangisdaan ng ating bansa,” he added.

[Small fisherfolks have experienced receiving low price offers because of the increase in expenses in gasoline that traders use to transport fish. That is the reason why small fisherfolks cannot expect that when the price of gasoline increases, their fish harvest will be bought for a higher price. There is no truth in it and it will not happen because monopoly exists in the production in the country’s fishing industry.]

For Hicap, the continuous price increase exacerbated the situation of small fisherfolks across the country given the long-running problems they are facing.

When the country was put under strict lockdown due to the pandemic, the majority of the Filipinos have suffered from livelihood restrictions including small fisherfolks.

“Dinaanan tayo ng pandemya at hindi pa nakakarecover yung mga mangingisda dahil doon sa napakahabang lockdown at wala namang suporta, sapat na suporta ang gobyerno. Kaya yung mga mangingisda ay nabaon doon sa [utang] dahil wala naman silang ibang pagkakakitaan. Kung hindi makalaot, wala silang kita. Kaya sa panahon ng lockdown ay kailangan nilang mangutang doon sa mga kapitbahay nila, doon sa kanilang mga dinadalhan ng isda, kaya halos ay nakabaon sila sa utang’” he said.

[We were hit by the pandemic and fishers have not completely recovered because of the long lockdown and there was no sufficient support from the government. That is the reason why fishers are buried in debts because they had no other means to earn money. If they can’t go on fishing trips, they have no income. During the lockdown, they had to borrow money from their neighbors and from persons whom they deliver their fish harvest.]

When asked about government support for fisherfolks, Hicap narrated that in his 60 years of age, he has not received subsidies or felt or experienced genuine support from the government.

“Mula pa noon hanggang ngayon, sa mga maliliit na mangingisda [ay] walang tulong ang gobyerno natin. Bagkus ay pag-aabandona sa maliliit na mga mangingisda ang nararamdaman natin at panunupil doon sa mga karapatan ng maliliit na mga mangingisda lalong lalo na doon sa karapatang mangisda,” Hicap said.   

[Until now, our government still has no support for small fisherfolks. Instead, small fisherfolks experience abandonment and repression of their rights most importantly, of their right to conduct fishing operations.]

Even before the pandemic, fisherfolks have long been battered with repressive policies, Hicap said. He shared that these include the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998 as amended through the Republic Act 10654 which imposes unjust fishing restrictions. Also, programs such as reclamation projects, black sand mining, and quarrying which exploit water resources and fisherfolks continue to exist because of the government policies which allow them to happen.

“Kaya mas matindi. Mas pinatindi pa ng pagtaas o tuloy-tuloy na pagtaas ng produktong petrolyo o ng gasolina yung kahirapan ng dati nang naghihirap na mga mangingisdang Pilipino sa buong bansa,” Hicap lamented.

[It is made worse. The consecutive oil price hike worsens the situation of the struggling Filipino fisherfolks across the country.]


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