Senator Sherwin Gatchalian doubts the Philippine National Oil Company-Exploration Corp.’s (PNOC-EC) plans to import P 2 billion worth of diesel, saying it is not the best solution to cushion the impact of rising oil products and alleviate the burden of public utility drivers.
Gatchalian, who is the chairman of the Senate energy committee, called on the state-run agency to abandon this plan, noting that the planned importation of 50,000 metric tons (MTs) from Singapore every month represents 31 percent of the monthly demand for diesel.
“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. However, I do not believe that the PNOC-EC plan is the best solution to the problem since there is no guarantee that the cheap fuel will reach the PUJ drivers,” he said in a Manila Bulletin report.
Gatchalian emphasized that 179,852 legitimate public utility jeepney (PUJ) franchise holders in the country require at least 161.1 million liters of diesel every month to continue their operations.
The solon also noted that there is no assurance that all PUJ drivers will avail of the cheap imported fuel since not all gasoline stations will participate in the program.
Only smaller oil companies and other bulk buyers would be able to distribute the imported fuel, said PNOC-EC. This group of independent oil players operate only 3,051 out of 8,630 gas stations nationwide according to data from the Department of Energy (DOE).
Gatchalian stated that the plan might not work because not all PUJ drivers would be able to buy the PNOC-EC imported diesel.
“And you add the problem of monitoring the so-called leakages or non-qualified beneficiaries at gasoline stations. This plan should be carefully studied so that ordinary PUJ drivers benefit from this program,” he was quoted as saying in Filipino.
Gatchalian suggested that instead of importing cheap diesel, the government should upgrade its efforts in implementing the Pantawid Pasada Program (PPP).
Gatchalian pledged to fight for the P20,000 cash aid for jeepney driver for 2019. Government economic managers said they might decrease it by half in light of the nearing fuel tax hike suspension.
“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 explained.