The taxis are back PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 13 July 2018 12:03

LOOKING IN

BY ROD BALBON

After several decades, the taxis are back. The units are new, sleek and run smoothly. They are now the answer to those who are yearning for a fast, clean, and reliable public transport. Fifteen units are now serving and plying the streets of the city. Their fares may be a bit higher but accordingly, their business operation is doing good and are now looking for a space where to establish their office, parking area, and other facilities necessary for their operation.

Taxis are no strangers to Zamboangueños. As early as 1962, our city was the first in Mindanao to have taxis operating in the city and we were proud of them. Yes, there were additional reasons why we were proud then because in addition to this, we were also nationally known as the “City of Flowers” and the “Queen City of the South”. There were two taxi companies that were operating here before: Yellow Taxi and the LVS Taxi. The units of the first were the yellow turtle-shape type Fiat and the second, the red and white striped Taunus.

These taxi companies eventually folded up after only a few years of operations. We can only surmise that the business then was not profitable.  Aside from the old, reliable short-bodied public jeepneys and the vanishing calesas, the public was served by the old automobile taxi vehicles of the Rustes. They were likewise exterminated and were replaced by the new king of the road: the tricycles.

So from the late sixty’s up to now, only private vehicles are rendering transport (and certainly illegal) services, sort of taxis, to customers from the airport or pier to their destinations. Many visitors were wondering why no taxis are serving our first-class charter city.

I am reminded of my conversation, several years ago, with known Philippine Star columnist Art Borjal at Garden Orchids Hotel. He wondered that instead of taxis serving the residents of the city, we went lower in class when the city government approved the operation of pedicabs. He said it is a sign of retrogression and not a sign of progress.

But now the taxis have made a comeback, legally operated by a cooperative and they came at the right time—a time when the population of the city now has ballooned to more than a million and the need for public transport is getting very scarce. One could hardly take a tricycle in going to school, office, and to return home. The long queues in jeepney-riding stations are long and it takes hours before one can have a ride to reach his destination. But with the presence of the taxis now, many are more than willing to pay a more costly ride in exchange for fast, better, and clean service.

Accordingly, there will be hundreds more taxis to serve the city residents. Many satisfied customers, however, are asking, will they survive in competing with the cheaper rides in public jeepneys and tricycles?

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Now that the minimum wage rate of P310 has been approved by the Regional Tripartite Wage and Productivity Board (RTWPB Wage Order No. 20) and soon to be implemented within Region 9, many large scale and labor extensive businesses will undoubtedly be affected with such increase and will have no choice but to retrench their workers to minimize their overhead costs (salaries and wages) in order to survive. Retrenchment simply means unemployment. Since other regions have also increased their regional wage rates, expect the figures of unemployment to rise.

Such wage increase is very untimely and was approved at a time when businesses are not doing well. The RTWPB may boast that it has been able to answer the popular clamor of the working class but they simply forgot that most of these workers are now exempted from paying taxes, their children given free education from elementary, high school, and college with free allowances under the TRAIN Law. With this law, the workers are now freed from spending thousands and thousands of money. The costs of all these are far bigger than the mandated wage increase and the increase of prices of basic commodities which are very minimal. Expected to be hit by this untimely and costly increase are the tin and the sardines factories which employ a total of 32,000 workers in the West Coast, the Malls and department stores employing thousands of workers, the schools, hotels and groceries, and security agencies. Many of those who are likewise thinking of putting up new businesses will have to forego of their decision as they have first to consider this new wage rate before breaking their heads and extricating themselves from the other expensive overhead costs in operating their intended business operation.

This is sort of the DOLE-RTWPB killing the hens that lay the golden eggs. You kill the employers and you indirectly kill the workers.