Release P2.5-B drivers’ subsidy, DOTr urged

Release P 2.5-B drivers’ subsidy, DOTr urged

EASY WEEKEND TRAFFIC The light Saturday noontime traffic on Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City on April 13 covers problems faced by drivers. NIÑO JESUS ORBETA

MANILA, Philippines — A Makati City lawmaker over the weekend called on the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to immediately distribute the P2.5-billion cash aid for public transportation drivers, citing the latest series of pump fuel price increases.

In a statement on Sunday, Rep. Luis Campos Jr., vice chair of the House of Representatives’ committee on appropriations, said, “assuming the conditions that will trigger the grant of the subsidy have already been met, then we see no reason for any holdup in the distribution of the cash aid.”

READ: Drivers affected by jeepney modernization may avail DSWD aid, says exec

Campos previously assured public utility vehicle (PUV) drivers the government has allocated P2.5 billion in the 2024 General Appropriations Act (GAA) as a direct fuel subsidy to cushion them from the high prices of gasoline and diesel.

He pointed out Congress has shortened the trigger period for the award of the fuel subsidy “precisely to give immediate economic relief to PUV drivers, including taxi, tricycle, full-time ride-hailing and delivery service drivers.”

“The 2024 GAA clearly provides that the subsidy may be given as soon as the price of Dubai crude oil reaches $80 per barrel for 30 days,” Campos said.

“In previous budget laws, the price of Dubai crude oil had to stay at or above $80 per barrel for 90 days before the subsidy would be granted,” he added.

The lawmaker noted the per liter pump prices of gasoline and diesel have, as of Sunday, increased respectively by P9.30 and P6.05.

READ: DOLE gives P5-M livelihood aid to PUV drivers, operators

Funds already released

Campos said the Department of Budget and Management had earlier announced the P2.5-billion subsidy to the transport sector affected by rising fuel prices program had been released to the DOTr.

Under the DOTr program last year, modern jeepney and UV Express drivers received P10,000 each in cash assistance. Drivers of buses, minibusses, school buses, taxis, traditional jeepneys and ride-hailing services received P6,500.

Delivery riders were given P1,200 while tricycle drivers received P1,000 during the same period.

Fuel prices have been increasing almost every week since March due to world oil prices spiraling due to the violence instigated by Iran in the Strait of Hormuz and the Red Sea in the Middle East.

According to the Reuters news agency, Iran’s attack on Israel has injected fresh anxiety into oil markets already roiled by regional tensions.

Oil prices had already jumped in previous months, but more since Iran staged an attack on Israel.

Prices are expected to climb further as violence continues although Kuwaiti oil expert Kamel al-Harami said it was too soon to say whether they would stay elevated.

“The picture is not clear about the future. We do not know if and how Israel will respond and whether Iran will also resort to stopping oil supplies,” Harami said.

Iran’s proxy war

Iran was the world’s seventh-largest crude producer in 2022, and has the third-largest proven oil reserves behind Venezuela and Saudi Arabia, according to the US Energy Information Administration.

Iran also has a range of ways to wreak havoc with markets, including disrupting maritime traffic through the Strait of Hormuz and pressuring countries such as Iraq to cut supply, Harami said.

“There are several scenarios … The fear is that Iran will stop exporting oil or attack oil facilities,” Harami said.

The fallout from the six-month-old war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza— along with other geopolitical hot spots like Ukraine—has already driven up oil prices in recent months.

Since November, Houthi rebels in Yemen have carried out a campaign of strikes on vessels in the Red Sea.

The war began with Hamas’s unprecedented Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel that resulted in the deaths of 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli figures. —WITH REPORTS FROM AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE AND REUTERS