Wed 25 Jun 2014
Filed under: Business / Trade,Inside Burma,News
A group of taxi drivers have threatened to sue the Ministry of Energy unless it gives them permission to install compressed natural gas, or CNG, in their cars.
The drivers imported new cars under an overage car substitution program. While the ministry no longer approves applications for new CNG conversions, it had previously stated that new cars imported to replace vehicles equipped with CNG could also use the gas, which is many times cheaper than petrol or diesel.
The 73 drivers from Yangon and Bago regions bought import permits from the owners of CNG-equipped Hilux buses that were handed in for substitution. They then imported cars but more than a year after applying to install CNG the owners are yet to get the green light. The ministry says it no longer supports installing CNG in taxis because it wants to use the fuel for buses instead.
On June 10, they protested outside the Ministry of Energy office in Thaketa township to voice their displeasure.
“This is the result of the ministry’s failings,” said driver Ko Kyaw Myint. “We will wait and see for another two weeks. If not we plan to sue the ministry.”
Another driver, Ko Kyaw Hlaing Soe, said he was facing substantial losses because of the ministry’s policy change.
“We have already bought our taxis and have been waiting nearly one year,” he said. “We will keep pushing until the ministry allows us to put CNG in our cars.”
Despite the ministry’s preference for using CNG on buses, it has shown some flexibility. In February, 130 disgruntled taxi drivers denied CNG held a press conference in February, after which 57 were given permission.
“One month after our press conference the ministry allowed CNG in 57 cars but another 73 are still waiting,” Ko Kyaw Hlaing Soe said.
The ministry has advised the taxi drivers to import a bus and apply again.
“We did not stop giving approval for CNG. It’s just that we now prioritise public transport. If the drivers want to change to buses, we will give permission as soon as possible,” said U Hla Win Htay, general manager of state-run Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise. He added that the case had been reported to the minister.
However, Ko Kyaw Hlaing Soe said the suggestion was impractical.
“If we buy a bus it will just cost us much more money,” he said.