Who could not recall the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic? We experienced the heaviest lockdowns in our lifetime (I hope) and everything went to a standstill. I could recall enduring the heat of the sun walking home with two bags of groceries. Despite it being very impractical to walk, there was simply no means of transport in my case. I did not have a bicycle and even so, it would be more of a hassle with the two bags I was carrying.
At this period, major fuel consumers such as the aviation industry and the land transport and logistics industry were also at a standstill. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) highlighted that the community-wide quarantine restrictions during the early stage of the pandemic led to significant economic disruptions. This in turn slowed down production and mobility worldwide which gave a substantial drop in the global oil demand.
Two years after, we have a polar opposite of the situation. Oil prices rose to horrific levels past pre-pandemic figures. In a report of Philstar Global, gasoline prices have increased by more or less PHP7.95 per liter: diesel at PHP10.20 per liter and kerosene at PHP9.10 per liter. Among the factors identified to affect the oil prices include:
- Supply chain disruption due to the conditions brought by the special military operation of Russia in Ukraine
- Declining reserves of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries Plus (OPEC+)
- Lack of crude and refined products inventories
While the government employed several measures to mitigate the rise in oil prices, it is still expected that such fuel price hikes would have general effects on the entirety of the Philippine economy, especially in food production, logistics and transportation.
Here are some ways we could survive the effects of the oil price hike as well as lend a helping hand to the sectors that would experience its ill effects significantly:
- Use a bicycle for short-distance travel. It has been ages since people wished for bike lanes. Iloilo City is gifted with these. In my previous rapid study, it found that the development of bike lanes had direct effects in increasing the cyclist population in the city. Using a bicycle not only saves costs on transport but it also provides health benefits physically and mentally. This option has been advocated by several groups and even the country’s National Economic and Development Authority has promoted this means of transport to mitigate the effects of fuel price hikes. This would also reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
- Park your cars and use public transport. The heaviest effect in fuel price hikes is felt by transport groups. The reduced number of commuters due to alternative work arrangements as well as online learning has significantly affected jeepney drivers’ pockets. With the rise of fuel prices and the status quo on fare prices prescribed by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board, it is best to artificially increase commuter activity to also increase the drivers’ incomes. It is a win-win situation for car owners to save up on their fuel expenses while jeepney drivers’ would also be able to cope with the situation.
- Explore carpooling. If you want the comfort of an airconditioned car or if you want to maintain that lifestyle back when fuel prices were still within your budget, then carpooling can be the last option. The COVID-19 virus is still present but with compliance with minimum public health standards like wearing facemasks, it may be a good option to split the fuel bill with a few friends or colleagues. If you are hosting the car, also expect to chip in some amount. And if you are the passenger, cooperate and contribute to the fuel. This option will generally also reduce cars on the road making it free-flowing and safer for those on bikes.
Several lessons and solutions were discovered by humanity during the hardest times. The COVID-19 pandemic made several things we never thought of becoming possible, possible. Transaction in banks and government entities embraced digital technology. Despite being disconnected physically, we became more connected beyond what we could reach pre-pandemic. More people learned to use gadgets in solving their day-to-day inconveniences. Let us embrace and find the silver lining of the global fuel price increase and discover ways how this problem could become a solution to preserve our economy, our planet and our humanity.