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Fuel crisis

After what feels like months of weekly price hikes, with a rare token rollback thrown in as “consuelo de bobo” a few months ago so the suffering Filipino consumers cannot say has been no let up, the price of fuel seems to be fast approaching an all-time high. 

We don’t know if our government cares that the price of fuel is going through the roof because our officials seem to be busy reacting to COVID-19 developments or preparing for the 2022 elections, but the general consensus remains the same. We are basically on our own and it is up to us to find the ways and means to deal with this concern that is increasing the degree of difficulty of our journey to recovery from the pandemic.

The cause of the recent fuel price hikes is global so government has every excuse to do nothing. Nations that are starting to recover from the pandemic are seeing an increased demand for fuel and at the same time, the expectation of an unusually long winter in Europe, coupled by a low supply the natural gas they use for heating has resulted in a spike in energy prices. And because fuel is ultimately fuel, even countries that don’t have winters are feeling the impact of the price increases.

The bad news is that analysts are expecting fuel prices to rise further in the coming weeks or months, as winter is still coming. For Filipinos, there are rumors that we can expect another 4-5 peso per liter increase in gas prices before the fuel tide either stabilizes or turns.

Prices are going to continue going up and government seems disinterested in any intervention. Maybe the government officials who could step in and do something have better things to do. Maybe they’re too satisfied with their own comfy lives that they don’t have the time to care about our problems. This may be a global issue but there are surely local solutions such as the suspension of the hefty taxes on fuel as well as some sort of subsidy for public transport operators.

For those of us who are not blessed with a work arrangement that allows work from home, steadily skyrocketing fuel prices are a humongous pain. To make matters worse, we have a sucky public transport system that becomes even suckier once pandemic conditions and restrictions are factored in. For the marginally privileged, the safest way to work and home is still private transportation but with gas prices shooting out of control that option is starting to become unsustainable.

I live in Silay and work in Bacolod and have 2 unvaccinated kids. Even if our local government officials were somehow able to upgrade the public transport system during the past two years of our pandemic lifestyle to the point of decency, our terrible pandemic response that has allowed the community transmission of the Delta variant means anyone who takes it will still unnecessarily expose themselves to more potential points of transmission.

I wouldn’t mind taking public transportation if it were somehow and miraculously made better, but until our pandemic response is improved, it is not a safe option, especially if there is private transportation available. But with gas prices getting out of hand, fuel costs are going to take a bigger chunk of any household budget.  Even fuel conscious people like me will have to up our game by planning trips and driving as efficiently as possible.

As for the public transport sector, I don’t know how they are still surviving. Aside from the COVID restrictions that have already cut down the carrying capacity of public utility vehicles by at least half, the biggest cost of operating a vehicle is running out of control. There are no subsidies, no tax breaks, no ayuda but they keep on plying their routes. PUV drivers would’ve waged a transport strike if they had more freedoms but with the way things are, looks like they are just grinning and bearing it.

Fuel prices are skyrocketing. When the people who can do something don’t seem interested in helping out, it will be up to us to find ways to cope with this crisis. The end is nowhere near so either we tighten our belts, find ways to earn more, or make this added crisis another reason to ask for WFH arrangements.*

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