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Thirteen-Peso Fair



Commuters scored a victory a week ago. Naga City Hall made it crystal clear that tricycle ride regular fare is P 13.00 and the discounted fare for students, persons with disability, senior citizens and solo parents is P 10.50. Finally, something has been done to this issue. It has been so long in coming. Kindergarten pupils to college students have gone back to face-to-face classes for months now, and the tricycle fare has remained on the special pandemic rate. Those annoying plastic covers that stood for dividers have long been taken down on jeepneys and on tricycles themselves and the tricycle fare rate remained on 15; and no one among the powers that be seemed to notice. I felt the relief and revelry among neighbors and colleagues, especially among the members of sectors that looked forward to enjoying the clearly mandated discount.


For so long a time, the long standing 15 peso charge has puzzled commuters. If you already forgot; there was a time when it was 20 when the lockdown was tight. Then the quarantine got looser, the tariff slipped down 5 notches. We understood that those price hike from the 8 pesos which was then the regular cost was to make up for the one-passenger policy. Remember when only one passenger was allowed inside the coach and they would not even allow someone to ride behind the driver. Those were good times when I could stretch my legs inside without someone else pressing my body to a pulp. But what we didn’t and still don’t understand is why the fare remained on the pandemic rate when the tricycles were allowed to load more than one passenger and sometimes even six at a time.


I heard one tricycle driver lament on the irony of the gasoline prices shooting up and the City Hall sliding the fare down. He sighed their helpless circumstance about their inability to push back on the rule. While I was sitting behind him while he states his case to the coach passenger, I can’t deny the validity of his point. Pre-pandemic times were vastly different from post-lockdown times. I could not even imagine that just a few years ago, a ride used to cost a set of 5 peso coin and 3 one peso coins. Prices have jumped a great distance since then. Back then, we just worried about China. Now, we have to contend with the effects of that insanely pointless Russo-Ukrainian War, the China-Taiwan tension and whatever local force that causes almost all commodities to elevate on becoming expensive. While gasoline prices push the public transport drivers violently up, the government seems to push them down; thereby squeezing them in the middle. What does one who wields the steering wheel do in these pressing problems? We can’t possibly push the prices down. Could they hope for compassion from the higher-ups to give them some breathing space? Undeniably, these are hard times. With everything becoming expensive, what would be left of the drivers’ purchasing power? It seems that they have gotten themselves caught between colliding forces.


But on one hand, the fare adjustment is all part of society’s coming to terms with what is now “new normal”, post-lockdown, post-pandemic or whatever you may call it. It’s just a subsequent movement along with the taking down of dividers, face shields, discontinuing of work from home arrangements and modular classes. It’s all a part of a return to some semblance of normalcy. Tricycles are not restrained to load one or two passengers anymore. We’re not in lockdown or any sort of quarantine anymore. Therefore, all related matters should be straightened out. In fact the tricycle fare has been left untouched for so long, while the jeepney fare went to 9, then to 11. It just had to be set straight, regardless if it had remained 15, or adjusted to a lower amount. It just had to be made clear.


One issue that had to be straightened out is the discounted fare for students, persons with disability, senior citizens, and now including solo parents. With the 15 peso fare, how much is a discounted fare? Since the discount is 20%, it should be P 12. But no driver seemed to take that amount from a person with crutches, or an esteemed elderly. We recognized that the 20% discount did not apply because the charge was a special condition set to give allowance for the imposed restrictions. It was every PWD’s, and senior citizen’s contribution to the community for everyone of us to pull through. But since the three-wheel rides could now load up to more than two, then the fare should be set on an amount on which the discount could be applied. It’s simply a matter of fairness.


While Percy Lapid has been murdered, former Senator de Lima was suspiciously taken hostage, and the Court of Appeals has denied maria Ressa’s appeal, we could have a little fairness.


“Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, and please the widow’s cause.”

Isaiah 1:17


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