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Rising fuel prices force people to think ‘outside the tank’ to move around

Rising fuel prices force people to think ‘outside the tank’ to move around

Tessa R. Salazar

Just when you think pandemic restrictions have eased enough to allow us to move around more freely, a monkey wrench has been thrown in the global economics of fossil fuels (no thanks to the ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia), and threatens to spoil our mobility plans.

Talks have been rife of a one-time-big-time increase of P3 (for gas) and P5 (for diesel) per liter next week, painfully adding to the spate of fuel price upticks for the past 10 weeks straight.

Filipinos, ever their resilient selves, have been taking these continuous fuel price hikes in stride—probably because tangible effects are just beginning to be felt. Retailers have said that the actual impact of such increases on the prices of basic commodities won’t be felt until after two or three months, when new stocks with the added cost of the high fuel prices are on market shelves.

Right now, I can’t help thinking of things getting worse, when gas and diesel prices may actually breach the triple-digit pump prices (Note that gasoline already retails upwards of P90/liter in Boracay island). By that time, what’ll we do as commuters or motorists?

In a historical perspective, our society isn’t new to fuel price surges as a result of global factors. They happened five decades ago during the 1973 and 1979 Opec oil crises—both occurring because of man-made conflicts in the big oil-producing Middle East region—and again during 2005 to 2008, when world oil supplies couldn’t keep up with global demands.

I remember during those days in the middle of the first decade of the 2000s, I and my office colleagues were cycling to work to cope with the high cost of fuel. I will most likely do that again if my current work-from-home setup changes and I’m required to report to our physical office. To prepare for that, I’m running errands to groceries and drugstores using my e-bike.

I was wondering, what will the rest of us do once fuel prices cross that P100/liter threshold? I asked my sources how they would creatively manage their mobility needs if such a thing happened. Here are their answers:

Alberto H. Suansing, Department of Transportation Senior Consultant: “I will: 1. Plan my trips; 2. Use public transport; 3. Virtual meetings (instead of physical ones).”

Ferdinand Raquelsantos, president of the Electric Vehicle Owners Society: “I will not worry about it. For one, my car is an electric vehicle and I charge it in my house which is run fully by solar renewable energy.

“Even if electric power from the grid goes up, my power costs won’t be affected. As it is right now, the cost to operate an eV is 65 percent cheaper than gas-fed internal combustion engines. Obviously, it would be more advisable to go eV if fuel becomes more expensive.

“We’ve seen in other countries, including Southeast Asia, the conversion of gasoline stations into fast-charging stations where it takes only 20 minutes to fully charge an eV that has 30-percent remaining charge. This will eliminate range anxiety when driving eVs. We’ve heard plans of several oil companies/gas stations to install charging stations in NLEX, TPLEX and also in Subic and Batangas. My electric car has an onboard charger that I can plug to a 220-volt outlet. So even when I go out of town, I can plug it in for 6 to 8 hours while staying at a hotel.”

Edmund Araga, president of the Electric Vehicle Association of the Philippines: “I will prepare more EV units for deployment.”

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Araga has been instrumental in pushing for the Electric Vehicle Industry Development Act (Evida), which is expected to be signed into law, which in turn would boost EV adoption in the Philippines.

Vegan activist Nona Andaya Castillo, IBCLC, a healthcare professional specializing in the clinical management of breastfeeding and lactation: “Two things: a) I will join the protests against it, and; b) I will live in the province where I have a small lot near the market. This way, I won’t need to pay for my fare to buy my fruits and veggies.”

Car enthusiast and businessman Eisele Buntua: “I will be excited to continue doing how I have responded to these past two pandemic years, which was to walk instead to my intended places of destination within a 5-kilometer radius.

“My favorite vehicles have taken a back seat and have seen very little road action anyway. My interest as a car enthusiast has not waned despite this, though. It’s just that it isn’t practical anymore to use them as often as I used to, pre-pandemic.

“I’d probably see more and more exotic and rare supercars roaming around places of interest in the greater NCR. Owners of these vehicles don’t seem to be quite as affected, unlike regular car guys like me and are probably more than glad to have all that road space for themselves.”