Jeepney drivers work long days and endure a lot of difficulties in their struggle to eke out a daily living. At the end of the day, however, their earnings are far from enough to afford basic necessities.
BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
Ang buhay ay pamamasada
Usok at init ng makina
At pag kulang pa ang kita
Kailangan pang umarangkada
Ganyan ang buhay-jeepney driver
Sa buong araw na kayod
Mga tuhod ay nanlalambot
‘Yan ang buhay-jeepney driver
Sa buong araw na pasada
“Jingle” lang ang pahinga
‘Yan ang buhay-jeepney driver
Pag may konti nang kita
Pwede nang pumarada
— Noel Cabangon, “Jeepney Driver”
These lines definitely apply to the case of Mang Vito Pulmon, who plies the route from Project 3 in Quezon City to Quirino Avenue in Manila and back.
A typical day for Mang Vito begins at around 6 a.m., when he does his first round trip along his route. He has to complete five such round trips everyday to be able to take home some money for his family.
This routine of his has not changed for the last few years, despite the recent rollbacks in prices of petroleum products.
Diesel prices last month came close to P55 ($1.23 at the August 2008 average exchange rate of $1:P44.88) as a result of a series of oil price hikes starting last January.
Oil firms have claimed that the frequent spikes in the prices of their products are offshoots of their supposed need to recover losses from the jumps in world oil prices. World crude prices increased at a seemingly uncontrollable pace with projections that it would hit $200 per barrel. But these peaked at $147 per barrel before going down steadily. Mainstream analysts claimed that diminishing oil reserves, weather disturbances, and geopolitical factors such as the impending war between the US and Iran caused prices to rise; although some attribute it to a speculation frenzy in the oil futures market, especially after the sub-prime mortgage crisis in the US when hedge fund managers lost millions of dollars.
In the Philippines, oil companies have implemented a total of seven rollbacks since last August. These rollbacks have brought down prices by P8.50 a liter for gasoline and P6.50 for diesel.
World crude prices in the oil futures market first hit the $100/barrel mark in January this year, while its spot price was around $92.93. The local pump price of unleaded gasoline in January was at P44.45 per liter and diesel at P38.45. World crude prices in the futures market hit $103/barrel in February and $110/barrel in March, with spot prices reaching $93.51 in February and $99.32 in March. Local pump prices in February and March ranged from P43.96 to P46.46 for unleaded gasoline and from P36.94 to P39.44 for diesel.
Brent crude oil for October delivery last traded at $99.43 and light, sweet crude at New York Mercantile Exchange at $101.74. Spot prices range between $93.06, for oil from the Urals, to $104.04 for Louisiana sweet oil. Local pump prices now range from P51.25-52.85/liter for unleaded gasoline, and P48.95-51.09/liter for diesel.
The current range of pump prices for unleaded gasoline and diesel is visibly still above the monthly averages for the period January-March 2008, bolstering the claims of drivers and militant organizations that the current oil price rollbacks are not enough.
“Hindi nararamdaman ng drayber y’ong rollback. Dapat, mas malaki ang ibaba ng presyo ng langis. Ang mahal-mahal ng langis, sa gasolinahan lang napupunta y’ong kita namin” (Drivers cannot feel the supposed benefits from the rollbacks. Oil prices should be reduced more. Petroleum products are so expensive that our earnings mostly go to the gasoline stations), Mang Vito said.