The Duterte administration’s economic managers on Thursday said that the government is ready to provide targeted relief assistance to alleviate the impact of the recent spike in petroleum prices to affected sectors.
In a statement, the Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC) —comprised of the secretaries of Finance, Budget, and Socioeconomic Planning— said it is “closely monitoring the factors affecting the oil prices in the country.”
The economic managers said the government is prepared to release funds to aid Public Utility Vehicle (PUV) drivers, farmers, and fisherfolk.
“To assist the transport sector, the government is preparing to release P2.5 billion for the Fuel Subsidy Program of the Department of Transportation (DOTr),” the DBCC said.
“This aims to provide fuel vouchers to over 377,000 qualified PUV drivers who are operating jeepneys, UV express, taxis, tricycles, and other full-time ride-hailing and delivery services nationwide,” it added.
The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB), last week, said the DOTr has already requested the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) for funds to cover 377,443 beneficiaries, who will be receiving fuel subsidies amounting to P6,500 each, or a total of P2,453,379,500.
The LTFRB has also thumbed down any possibility of granting fare hikes for PUVs, saying the DOTr is avoiding putting a burden on commuters and is more inclined to assist in meeting the financial needs of the public transport sector through service contract programs and Pantawid Pasada.
Fuel aid for farmers
Apart from fuel subsidies for the PUVs sector, the DBCC said the Department of Agriculture (DA) has a budget of P500 million to provide assistance through fuel discounts to farmers and fisherfolk who either individually own and operate agricultural and fishery machinery or operate through a farmers organization or cooperative.
“This will help mitigate the impact of elevated fuel prices on production and transport costs of farm and fishery products,” the economic managers said.
The DA, however, said earlier that the threshold for giving farmers and fishers fuel subsidy has not yet been met despite the recent oil price hikes, noting that world crude price should hit $80 per barrel to trigger the release of fuel subsidies.
Citing the Banko Sentral ng Pilipinas’ (BSP) latest assessment as of February 17, 2022, the DBCC said the Dubai crude oil price for this year is projected to average at $83.3 per barrel.
“[T]his is expected to decelerate to $79.0 by the end of this year based on the latest oil futures,” it added.
On Thursday, oil rose above $105 a barrel amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, exacerbating concerns about disruptions to global energy supply.
Nonetheless, the economic managers said the government is also pursuing a holistic value chain approach to ensure an adequate and affordable food supply amidst the rising oil prices.
“In particular, the DA supports legislation such as Senate Bill No. 139 or the Philippine Livestock Development Industry Act and Senate Bill No. 2176 or the Affordable Pork Act to help ease possible domestic supply constraints and prevent second-round effects on prices,” the DBCC said.
“The DBCC remains committed to taking decisive action to ensure the unhampered supply of goods and services despite the rising oil prices amid the pandemic. These will support our full recovery and sustained growth in 2022 and beyond,” it added. — BM, GMA News