MANILA, Philippines – A proposed 20% student fare discount on all public transport utilities will be fair if it is applicable "all year round" and not just during school days, an education official said Tuesday, February 3.
Representing Education Secretary Armin Luistro, Department of Education-NCR Director Luz Almeda told senators that various school-related activities happen even during weekends, summer and semestral breaks.
"Our observation is, [fare discount on school days] is very unfair because Saturdays, we have make-up classes. Even summer and semestral breaks, we have school-related activities like on-the-job training, or immersion [and] field trips,” Almeda said.
She spoke before the Senate committee on education, arts and culture during its first public hearing on Senate Bill 203 and House Bill 5068.
Both bills propose for students be granted 20% discount on regular fares of “all kinds of public transportation utilities," but they differ on when students can take advantage of this discount.
The House version – which has already been approved on third and final reading – said the privilege may only be availed during school days, while the Senate version is more specific:
Students currently enjoy a 20% discount on regular fares of public utility vehicles through a memorandum circular of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board, but it is only applicable during the school year, from Mondays to Fridays.
"With K to 12, we will have more students attending enhancement classes. More students [will] avail weekend [and] summer classes," Almeda added.
Committee chair Senator Pia Cayetano also noted that some universities already began adjusting their academic calendars. This affects not only the school months, but also the semestral break and summer vacation.
Effect on drivers, operators
But one public transportation group found the Senate bill, as proposed by Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara, problematic.
“Gusto sana naming maunawaan [ninyo] na itong mga jeepneys, tricycle, UV Express ay pinapatakbo ng mga ordinaryong driver at small operators…Kapag summer vacation [at] Christmas, talagang lalong lumiliit kita ng mga drivers,” said George San Mateo, president of the Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (PISTON).
(We want you to understand that jeepneys, tricylces, UV Express are operated by ordinary drivers and small operators. During summer vacation [and] Christmas, these drivers earn even less.)
He cited jeepney drivers as example. As it is, they only earn an average of P200 ($4.54)* to P300 ($6.80) per day – lower than the P466 ($10.56) minimum wage. They will earn even less, he said, if they give students discounts during vacation breaks.
"Ang aming sektor ay mahihirap na sektor na nasa transport service...Mahirap ang ating mga jeepney drivers (Our sector is a poor sector in the transport service...Our jeepney drivers are poor.)" he explained.
But his group is not against the proposal "in principle."
"Ang sinasabi lang namin, kung ipatutupad ito sa amin all year round, ang posisyon namin, kung ipapatupad 'to sa hanay namin sa jeepneys, [sana] i-subsidize ng gobyerno. Gumawa tayo ng mechanisms for that,” San Mateo added,
(What we're trying to say is if we're going to implement this all year round, we hope the government will subsidize it. Let's create mechanisms for that.)
Student group National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) said the bill needs further review that will put into consideration not just students, but also Filipino families.
"Tama yung sinasabi ng PISTON...Yung bulto pa rin ng mga mamamayan na sumasakay ng land transportation is during working days at saka school days,” NUSP National Secretary General Lovely Carbon told Rappler.
(What PISTON said is right. Majority of passengers ride public transportation during working days and school days. – Rappler.com
*1 US$ = P44.09
Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.