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Fuel price hikes, traffic jams, and rising prices

 

AT 6 a.m. last Tuesday, diesel prices went up by Php0.60 per liter while gasoline in­creased by Php0.10 per liter. It was the latest factor expected to contribute to un­abated rising of prices in local markets. For diesel is the fuel of cargo trucks bringing consumer goods to city and town markets from farms around the country. It is also the fuel of cargo trucks bringing imported raw materials to factories manufacturing other consumer goods.

This increase in the pump price of diesel is on top of the tariff which the TRAIN law imposed on diesel and other fuels starting this January. Along with several other fac­tors – rising global oil prices, the drop in the value of the Philippine peso, and market manipulations – the tariff on fuel has been blamed for the rising prices all these months. With the new diesel price increase, we can expect market prices to rise even more.

We do see one positive effect of the diesel price increase. Traffic should ease some­what on Epifanio delos Santos Ave. (EDSA) and other streets in Metro Manila, as some car owners will feel the pinch of increased fuel prices.

The traffic gridlock in many Metro streets has long been a problem for motorists and city officials. A recent plan to ban from EDSA cars with only the driver as occupant was suspended after so many complaints, as it only forced traffic from EDSA to other similarly jammed streets. A few days ago, a congressman asked Metro Manila mayors to consider implementing a four-day work week. Malacañang could similarly order a four-day work week in national government agencies with offices in Metro Manila, he said.

The Metro Manila traffic problem boils down to the fact that its road network can no longer accommodate the number of vehicles that have increased by the hundreds of thousands every year. There are plans for new elevated roads, subways, and light rail­ways, but these will take years to complete.

The Metro Rail Transit and the Light Rail Transit can boost their capacities, but they seem unable to accomplish this due to a host of internal problems. If only these mass transit systems could absorb more of the people who need to go to work or to school every day, there would not be need for so many cars that now clog city streets. The new price increases for diesel and other fuel may help reduce traffic, but not for very long. Necessity will soon return the cars to city traffic.

Ultimately, we must deplore the continuing fuel price increase on top of the fuel taxes, for their effects on the lives of most people, especially the poor. The nation’s economic managers are said to be meeting on ways to stop the inflation, now assessed at 5.7 percent and, it is feared, may rise to 6 percent. We hope they succeed before we reach the depths to which Venezuela in South America has plunged; its inflation rate reportedly breached 40,000 percent in July.

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