Editorial: Increasing fuel prices, increasing commodity prices

IF YOU have been commuting lately, you might have noticed the difficulty of getting a ride on a public utility vehicle (PUV) like a taxi or a jeep.

According to transport groups and some of the drivers, it is not easy to get a ride nowadays as some drivers have opted to quit driving and look for another job due to increasing petroleum prices.

In April this year, several taxi drivers revealed to SunStar Davao that their daily income has reduced due to the recent price hike.

Tots, a 58-year-old taxi driver, bared in a previous interview in April that he had stopped driving due to the ongoing fuel price hike.

“Sa pagkakaron, lisod kaayo. Ang unsay income karon, itapal na lang sa gasoline ug renta ugma (As of now, it’s really hard to look for a stable income. My earnings from driving would mostly go to buying gasoline, while at the same time, another share would go to the rent of the cab the next day),” he said.

Tots said he had driven 15 to 16 hours a day just to mitigate the rising fuel prices.

Transmission-Piston (Piston) secretary-general Larry Arguelles said fuel prices have increased by around P30 since January 2022. He said it is not easy for PUV drivers and operators to cope with this because they have other expenses as well — car rental, daily needs, spare parts, and tires, to name a few.

“Napugos sila [operators] og undang na lang tungod wala na sila mapuga sa ilang sakyanan. Mahimo lamang dakong problema sila niini (That’s why some operators are forced to stop operations since they can no longer earn from their units. It would only be an additional burden for them),” he said.

Arguelles said in a certain route with 30 units plying, only 10 are currently operating.

However, the increase in fuel prices is not only affecting the drivers. It has a domino effect on our local economy as well.

The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported on June 7 that headline inflation increased to 5.4 percent in May 2022 from 4.9 percent in the previous month.

“The Russia-Ukraine conflict has disrupted the global supply chain and elevated commodity prices, particularly for fuel,” Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick T. Chua said.

PSA said in a statement that the increase in inflation was “due to the higher annual growths in the food and non-alcoholic beverages index at 4.9 percent, and transport index at 14.6 percent.”

Food inflation also “increased further to 5.2 percent in May 2022, from 4.0 percent in April 2022.”

“The uptick in the food inflation was primarily influenced by the double-digit annual growths in the vegetables, tubers, plantains, cooking bananas and pulses index at 15.2 percent, and oils and fats index at 13.6 percent,” PSA said.

The agency also noted an uptick in inflation for flour, bread and other bakery products, pasta products, and other cereals (4.8 percent); Meat and other parts of slaughtered land animals (5.4 percent); Fish and other seafood (6.2 percent); Milk, other dairy products and eggs (1.5 percent); Sugar, confectionery and desserts, (8.7 percent); and Ready-made food and other food products, n.e.c, (3.5 percent).

Chua said to mitigate inflation, the government must continue to implement “the issuance of Executive Order (EO) No. 171 and the government’s fuel subsidy program.”

“EO No. 171 extends the validity of EO 134 and 135, which lowered the most favored nation (MFN) tariff rates for the importation of pork and rice. The EO also reduces MFN tariff rates for corn to 5 percent in-quota and 15 percent out-quota, citing that corn accounts for more than 50 percent of the total production cost of large-scale broiler and swine farms,” Neda said in a statement.

As for the fuel subsidy, Neda said ‘the government has increased the total budget for targeted subsidies to P6.1 billion.”

“As of June 1, 2022, over 180,000 PUV drivers and operators have received their P6,500 fuel subsidy under the Pantawid Pasada program. At the same time, more than 158,000 farmers and fisherfolk are also set to receive P3,000 as fuel discounts,” Neda added.

It will be rough seas for Filipinos and local businesses in the coming months as prices of goods and transportation increase. What meager savings or earnings most of us have will be “eaten” up by the increase in prices of different commodities. Right now, many Filipinos and local businesses are trying to get through the month or day with a shoestring budget.

We hope the government can come up with other solutions that will slow down or mitigate the effects of the price hike of fuel and basic commodities.

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