Fuel subsidy: PUV drivers may need ‘a little patience’
MANILA, Philippines — The first installment of the P2.5-billion fuel subsidy for public utility vehicle (PUV) drivers may be given out this month to help relieve them from spiraling prices of petroleum products, Executive Director Kristina Cassion of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) said on Wednesday.
Cassion noted that the LTFRB was just waiting for the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to release the funding, which acting Budget Secretary Tina Canda said might happen this week or next at the latest.
“Our target is to release the funds by March once the DBM downloads the funds. They said they will release the funds by this month. Immediately the LTFRB can distribute the funds to more than 377,000 beneficiaries covering public utility jeepneys, buses, UV Express vans, taxis, ride-sharing cars, and even tricycles and deliveries,” Cassion said during Wednesday’s Laging Handa public briefing.
In the same briefing, Canda assured the public that it was expediting the release of funds for the fuel subsidy program for the public transport sector.
“We are asking for a little patience but we are really speeding this up. We just have to comply with some laws on the release of this fund,” Canda said.
She explained that the agency was just waiting for the signing of its joint memorandum circular with the departments of energy and of transportation to pave the way for the downloading of funds from the DBM.
“We are just waiting for that. The release documents are ready so once it is signed, we will also process the release documents for the P2.5 billion (fuel subsidy),” she said.
The second installment of the fuel subsidy is expected to be distributed in April and will come from excess revenue collections by the end of March, Canda added.
“When we have excess revenues, we have a process within (DBM) to release the unprogrammed or standby appropriations, and that is only triggered by the additional revenues. We estimate that by the end of March, we will have that,” Canda said.
The fuel subsidy for the transport sector is part of the government’s relief interventions for those reeling from the impact of spiraling oil prices, made worse by speculation caused by the war between Russia and Ukraine.
On Monday, oil companies announced the biggest increase in pump prices of petroleum products so far this year: P5.85 for a liter of diesel, P4.10 for kerosene and P3.60 for gasoline.
Since January this year, the unabated weekly increase has raised diesel prices by P17.50 a liter and gasoline by P13.25. In 2021, gasoline prices rose by P16.30 a liter and diesel by P15.80.
The recent spikes in oil prices have been due to the impact of Russia’s invasion of neighboring Ukraine on an already tight global crude supply.
The government is also releasing a similar fuel subsidy to farmers and fisherfolk using agricultural machinery that are dependent on fuel.
The P2.5-billion fuel subsidy is part of the P5-billion aid that the National Economic and Development Authority recommended as aid to the transport and agriculture sectors.
Lawmakers on Tuesday called on the government to immediately release its subsidy for public transport workers, and increase and expand the coverage of the aid program to cushion the impact of skyrocketing fuel prices.
‘Act with dispatch’
Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, chair of the Senate committee on energy, proposed a 50-percent increase in the subsidy for public transport drivers.
The government should also immediately release fuel subsidies to farmers and fishermen, at the same time increasing the amount by 50 percent, and suspend the imposition of fuel taxes as a last resort, Gatchalian said.
Sen. Grace Poe, chair of the committee on public services, agreed that the government must “act with dispatch” in giving out aid to PUV drivers as she expressed concern how rising prices of fuel have battered drivers and farmers daily for weeks now.