The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board is keen on approving a petition to increase the fares for public utility buses amid the high prices of oil products after its second hearing on the issue on Thursday.
LTFRB chairperson Cheloy Garafil noted the last bus fare increase was in 2018, when diesel was just at P44 per liter – now it is averaging P78 per liter, up P30 since the start of 2022.
But while the agency sees the need for higher fares, it has yet to consult with the National Economic and Development Authority to ensure a balance on the welfare of both drivers and operators as well as commuters, she added.
Bus groups earlier filed a P20 minimum fare increase petition for the first five kilometers in air-conditioned buses from P13 and a charge of P3.40 per kilometer beyond five kilometers. The first hearing for their petition was held last July 28.
Petitioning groups include the Southern Luzon Bus Operators Association, Nagkaisang Samahan ng Nangangasiwa ng Panglalawigang Bus sa Pilipinas, and Samahang Transport Operators ng Pilipinas Inc.
The petition also called for an increase in the minimum fare in the ordinary buses from P11 to P15 with a P2.70 charge per kilometer.
As far as provincial buses are concerned, the petitioners requested a P15 minimum fare for ordinary buses with a charge of P2 per kilometer.
For air-conditioned ones, their recommended charge is P2.50 per kilometer for regular air-conditioned buses, P2.60 per kilometer for deluxe buses, P2.70 per kilometer for super deluxe, and P3.60 per kilometer for luxury buses.
Garafil said that during the hearing, president of Lawyers for Commuters Safety and Protection Ariel Inton’s position was to agree to at least P2 increase bus fare increase for the first five kilometers. But he said the fare hike for succeeding distances should be tempered as it will have an impact on commuters.
According to Garafil, they have yet to hear the position of NEDA before they could submit the petition for resolution.
The LTFRB chief said the second hearing is the last hearing that will be conducted by the agency for the bus fare hike petition, adding that the regulatory body is awaiting NEDA’s position before deeming the petition as “submitted for resolution.”
“We need the position of the NEDA because the LTFRB doesn’t want to add on the inflation as any increase, although minimal, still has an effect that’s why we need the guidance of the NEDA on this,” she said.
“We will balance it out… because we cannot just side with one party, we have to balance. While we recognize that oil prices have increased since the last fare hike for buses, we also recognize this will have an impact on passengers. That is why we are very very careful in crafting a resolution for this case,” Garafil said.
The LTFRB chief said increasing fares will help bus operators since “many of them are out of business because of high prices of fuel and there are routes which were cut, so this will help them.”
“Our primary consideration is to get a balance on how to help them [bus operators] at the same time it won’t be too burdensome for passengers,” she said.