Friday, June 13, 2008

Running On Empty

A few years ago, when I have nothing to do and suddenly develop a sudden, desperate craving for a decent cheeseburger and a fruit shake (which unfortunately I could not have in Lianga), I would have no qualms or second thoughts about jumping into the family car and making the 36 or so kilometer drive to the town of San Francisco in Agusan del Sur where both the burger and the shake can be had at any of the fastfood joints there. The trip would only take about an hour to make one way and you can be back in Lianga in a jiffy after the little gastronomic treat even if you factor in the rough and potholed, dirt roads that you would have to travel on part of the way.

But then that was before diesel fuel prices have almost doubled and reached almost P46.00 per liter and gasoline prices almost 54 pesos per liter. Nowadays nonsense trips out of Lianga are definitely out and even essential trips out of town have to be planned carefully with maximum fuel efficiency in mind. Its either that or you better start planning to sell your car and start using public transportation when you can.

Not that riding on the bus or jeepneys is exactly cheap either. A one way ticket to San Francisco nowadays would set you back P50 pesos or more depending on the type of public transport you use. That is a hefty sum in a part of the world where the average minimum wage is just about P200 and where the majority of the rural folk live below the poverty line.

The negative impact of rising fuel prices and transportation costs in economically underdeveloped communities like Lianga cannot be understated. Towns like it that are located relatively far from the main urban centers are heavily dependent on the existence of an efficient and affordable transportation system in order to survive. That means modern road networks and access to low priced fuel and energy sources needed for transporting people and goods.

Since Mindanao does not possess a land-based, mass transport system like railroads, it relies very heavily on the internal combustion engine for all manner of transportation and thus is more vulnerable to the negative consequences of spiraling fuel prices and shortages of fuel or energy sources based on petroleum or fossil fuels. Thus higher fuel prices automatically means higher transport costs and this affects everything from food and agricultural products to all manner of goods and services.

For car owners and non-car owners alike, for the farmer and the fisherman, for the small businessman and the government employee, or the housewife just trying to make ends meet, the fuel crisis is the sword hanging over one's head. No one knows what how it will end but from all indications the omens are not that comforting.

And for Lianga which has had to make do with what little it has in order to survive and try to prosper in a world where so much is stacked against it, the fuel crisis is just another obstacle on the road to prosperity that is fast becoming more difficult to travel on as time goes by.

No comments:

Post a Comment