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Govt readies P500-M 'assistance' for transport sector

The Department of Energy is pushing for a nationwide assistance program to the transport sector as prices of oil in the world market continue to mount, a Cabinet official said Friday, noting the program would cost the government around half a billion pesos. Energy Secretary Jose Rene Almendras told reporters that a draft of an executive order aimed at mitigating the impact of high fuel price to the transport sector has yet to be approved by President Benigno Aquino III. Almendras said that if the President signs the executive order, the government will issue “fuel cards" to the transport sector, enabling them to purchase fuel at P3 per liter lower than the current diesel price. Diesel is now sold at P45.25 to P47.25 per liter. The card, he said, will come with a value depending on the type of vehicle and its level of consumption. A mechanism of intervention? “The value of the card is not cash out from [the] government. It is the amount the transport sector can avail of the discount," Almendras said. Cardholders can use the fuel cards at all gasoline stations nationwide, he said, pointing out that oil firms will continue with their respective discounts to the transport sector. A total of 214,596 jeepneys, 27,886 buses, 6,648 mini-buses, and a million tricycles nationwide can benefit from the government’s aid. Only legitimate franchise holders will be given with fuel cards. Almendras underscored that the amount the government will spend is “not a subsidy but assistance" to the transport group. “We look at it as a mechanism of intervention," he said. Expanding the assistance The government is looking at the possibility of expanding the assistance to other sectors that may be affected by the mounting of oil and food prices. “The original plan was to look at a specific group of transport. We’re now looking at expanding the coverage to other groups," Almendras said, referring to the food sector. The government intends to use its “operating savings" to finance the assistance. Almendras refused to expound on this matter, saying he will disclose details when the President approves the executive order. He acknowledged that some sectors may not agree on the program or may not see the assistance as “enough." “But the department believes it will provide the needed relief to the transport sector and avert calls for higher fares amid the soaring oil prices," Almendras said. — JE, GMA News