Four months ago, when the pump price of gasoline went past P70 per liter, officers of various Tricycle Operators and Drivers Associations (TODAs) forged an arrangement with then Mayor Sinforoso Sarmiento Jr., Vice Mayor Arlynn Arcilla and three members of the Sangguniang Bayan for the setting of interim or temporary fares.
It was agreed upon that within the Virac población, the minimum fare would be P20 for one passenger, from the previous P15 set during the pandemic quarantine months.
If two passengers ride the same tricycle for destinations within downtown Virac, the fare would be P15 each.
At the time, the president of the Federation of Virac TODAs said that it would be difficult to bring back the fares to pre-pandemic levels due to lack of passengers, especially since full face-to-face classes were not yet allowed.
That reasoning still has merit, as the price of gasoline zoomed to over P90 per liter just this month before two successive price decreases brought it back to just above P80 per liter.
But what changes the situation is the impending return of face-to-face classes at the Catanduanes State University and private institutions of higher learning this August.
Already, the transient population of the capital town, especially in the barangays near the university, has significantly increased due to the influx of new and old students seeking to enroll in their chosen courses.
This development has benefited tricycle drivers, who have been allowed to load passengers at full capacity until now as the number of new COVID-19 cases has yet to reach a critical point that would require previous stringent measures.
Thus, pending any change for the worse in the pandemic situation in the province, local officials especially in the capital town of Virac should consider bringing down the minimum fare for tricycle rides from the present P20 to a more affordable (for the public) yet economically realistic (for the drivers and operators) level.
The TODAs cannot oppose any rollback in the fares on the basis of the fuel price alone.
They cannot even cite as a reason the operation of colorum tricycles in their routes or the undeniable fact that families have chosen to buy a motorcycle to save on daily transport costs.
Assuming that a student from the población has to ride the tricycle daily for five days, he or she would have to shell out the present P25 fare each way or a minimum of P100 per day for the commute alone.
For the month, his or her parents would have to spend P2,400 weekly for the transportation cost. Add to this at least P150 for the lunch and biscuits for the snacks and it would take at least P3,300 a month to send them to school.
And this does not even consider the expense of those who have to go back to their hometowns either daily or at the end of the week.
Tricycle fares to San Andres and Bato towns cost each passenger P80 while San Miguel riders have to pay P60 each way.
The burden now being borne by parents of college students would have to be made a little lighter by the local government.
A reduction in the minimum fare being charged by tricycles in Virac and in other towns should be a priority of the local chief executives, the vice mayors and the Sangguniang Bayan members.
This matter has to be discussed soonest and decided upon without delay, if they still have the interest of the public in their hearts.