“There are sources available.”
This week, Filipinos were shocked with the highest fuel price increase so far this 2022. On Monday night, vehicle owners queued to gasoline stations to fill their tanks to the brim. At midnight on Tuesday, the price of diesel went up by P5.85 per liter, gasoline by P3.60 per liter, and kerosene by P4.10 per liter.
This did not exactly come as a surprise as the conflict between Ukraine and Russia continues in its second week. Last week, we also saw a steep increase in the price of LPG. Nevertheless, this week’s price hike shocked most of us as this logged as the tenth consecutive oil price increase.
The Fuel Crisis Ad Hoc Committee of the House met with officials from the energy department, economic managers, and other concerned government agencies, and private entities to discuss potential solutions to these fuel price hikes. Recommendations include suspension of excise taxes, release of more fuel subsidies to drivers, increase in minimum fares, and review of the Oil Industry Deregulation Law. During the President’s Talk to the Nation, NEDA Secretary Karl Chua discussed measures to mitigate the impact of the fuel price hike to agriculture, power supply, transport sector, and inflation.
These proposals seem plausible but remain debatable. What is clear, however, is that oil prices are volatile, and often we are left powerless whenever global oil prices skyrocket. From this, we can easily deduce that there is a need to lessen our dependence on oil imports and, instead, explore indigenous sources.
We have various sources of renewable energy that can supplant the need for fuel. The Biofuels Act of 2006 mandates the inclusion of locally-sourced biofuels to diesel and gasoline sold in the country. Since its implementation, the use and processing of biodiesel in the country has expanded livelihood opportunities of coconut farmers and greatly contributed to the growth of the coconut industry. Pilipinas Shell and JNJ Industries have partnered with Quezon coconut farmers through their Project COCONUT to produce coconut oil for food products and biofuels. Apart from the economic benefits, various researches show that biodiesel is a cleaner and more efficient type of fuel that yields lower environmental emissions, higher mileage, and better car engine performance.
At present, biofuels comprise 2 percent of the total volume of diesel fuel. Biodiesel groups and coco methyl ester producers have been pushing for the 5 percent blend volume total. At this point, let me echo their sentiments and urge the national government to consider the increase in the mandated coco biodiesel blend in fuels. While, understandably, there may be oppositions due to the possible higher costs, the benefits will outweigh the costs in the long run. The positive effects of investing on the development of coco diesel will not only be felt by the economy at large, but will flow even to individual farmers, thereby improving their living conditions.
Apart from coco diesel, we have renewable energy sources alternative to diesel and gasoline. During President Arroyo’s administration, the use of compressed natural gas as an alternative fuel was promoted. Liquified natural gas has also been used in power generators. Meanwhile, the use of solar panels in residences and commercial establishments is gradually gaining traction, as well as the use of electric vehicles and non-motorized means of transportation.
Renewable energy sources are clearly available. However, its use requires huge investment in technology and significant support from the government. It is high time that the national government focuses on harnessing these indigenous renewable energy sources to ensure reliable, sufficient, sustainable, eco-friendly, and affordable energy. I urge the energy department to prioritize the implementation of relevant policies on renewable energy, invest more on its development, and promote its use through subsidies and incentives. In the long run, shifting to these renewable and cleaner sources of energy will impact not only the environment, but also the local economy and the health of the Filipinos.