Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Monday expressed skepticism that a government plan to import some P2 billion worth of diesel from Singapore will help drivers of public utility jeepneys better cope with rising costs because there is no guarantee they will get the cheaper fuel.
Instead of engaging in the direct importation of cheap diesel, Gatchalian said the government should step up its efforts to fully implement the Pantawid Pasada Program, which provides cash subsidies for PUJ drivers.
“I understand that we have a common goal and that is to help ease the burden of our jeepney drivers, who are actually one of the most vulnerable sectors to fluctuations in pump prices,” said Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate committees on economic affairs and energy.
To illustrate his point, Gatchalian said 179,852 legitimate PUJ franchise holders nationwide need at least 161.1 million liters of diesel per month for their operations. However, the Philippine National Oil Company-Exploration Corp. said it plans to import 50,000 MT per month, which is only equivalent to 50 million liters of diesel or just over 31 percent of the monthly demand for diesel.
He also contended that there is no assurance that PUJ drivers will be able to get hold of the cheap diesel because not all gasoline stations will participate in the program.
PNOC-EC said the distribution of the imported fuel will only be done “through smaller oil companies and other bulk buyers.” Data from the DOE show that these independent oil players operate only 3,051 of the total 8,630 gas stations nationwide.
He said there was also a problem of monitoring the use of the cheap diesel by non-qualified vehicle owners.
“The DOE and PNOC-EC should abandon the plan to engage in the direct importation of diesel and instead focus their energy and resources on a targeted system such as the Pantawid Pasada, which will truly benefit our PUJ drivers,” Gatchalian said.
He vowed to fight for the ₱20,000 cash aid for jeepney drivers under the Pantawid Pasada Program for 2019, after the country’s economic managers said they might reduce it to ₱10,000, given the suspension of the excise tax on fuel in January 2019.