The Commission on Elections has exempted the release of fuel subsidies to public utility vehicle operators and drivers from the campaign spending ban.
“The grant of the petition of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board is subject to the strict implementation of the program, such as the submission of information on how the project will be implemented, the parameters of the implementation, and the specific target beneficiaries, and how they will apply to avail of the grants of the programs,” Commissioner George Garcia said.
The release of the fuel subsidies can resume next week once the Comelec en banc comes out with a formal resolution, Garcia said.
The exemption also covers the release of fuel subsidies channeled through the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
Garcia said the agencies and departments must “specifically mention the beneficiaries, how and when the project will be implemented, as well as documentation as to the compliance to the implementation before of similar projects.”
The LTFRB’s Pantawid Pasada program seeks to provide P6,500 worth of fuel subsidy each to some 377,443 PUV drivers.
Earlier, independent presidential candidate Sen. Panfilo Lacson questioned the suspension of the fuel subsidies.
“Unless there is jurisprudence along that line, I don’t think the national government should be covered by the election ban on providing social services to our people especially at a time when the prices of fuel continue to go up,” Lacson said.
Lacson said the fuel subsidy was a “call of the times,” adding the continued rise in the prices of oil threaten to crush those in the transport sector, as well as fisherfolk and farmers.
“I do not see how that can be construed as vote buying,” he added.
Meanwhile, transport group Pasang Masda has filed a new petition seeking to increase the minimum jeepney fare from P9 to P14.
This as the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board last month denied the P1 provisional fare hike petitions of 1-UTAK, Pasang Masda, ALTODAP AND ACTO.
The LTFRB Board explained it had to ‘judiciously balance’ the rights of the riding public who depend on the public transport system, vis-à-vis the right of the operators to financial returns.
“The Board emphasized that while it recognizes the present clamor of stakeholders in public land transportation services for necessary action relative to fare rates, they cannot be insensitive to the plight of Filipinos every time an increase on the prices of the commodities occur, as a domino effect to the grant of fare increase,” the LTFRB said.
It also cited the National Economic Development Authority position that a fare hike would fuel further “inflationary expectations” when the costs were being transferred to consumers, as high transportation expenses would reduce the purchasing power of those dependent on public transport.
For its part, the Department of Labor and Employment said there were 20 wage hike petitions filed in 10 regions of the country.
In a virtual forum, Rolly Francia, DOLE Information and Publication Service director, said the regions included the National Capital Region (NCR) and Regions 3 (Central Luzon), 4-A (Calabarzon), 5 (Bicol Region), 6 (Western Visayas), 7 (Central Visayas), 8 (Eastern Visayas), 9 (Zamboanga Peninsula), 10 (Northern Mindanao), and 11 (Davao Region).
Francia said aside from the petitions filed before the National Capital Region-Regional Wages and Productivity Board (NCR- RTWPB), groups have also asked nine other RTWPBs for an increase in the salaries of employees.
On Tuesday, the NCR-RTWPB reported that a fresh petition asking for a P470 wage hike was filed by the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) after its first petition seeking the same amount was not acted upon by the board.
Aside from the labor group’s petition, the three wage petitions earlier filed have been consolidated.
The salary adjustment being pushed is between P213 to P250 in the daily minimum wage for Metro Manila workers.
The consultation with the labor sector is set to be held on April 8, while the meeting with the employers’ group will be on April 19.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III earlier ordered the activation of all wage boards in the country to assess if there is a need to increase the salary of workers amid the rising prices of oil and other prime commodities, which are worsened by the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict.