MANILA - The surging world crude oil prices due to the conflict between Russia and Ukraine highlighted the need for a "strategic petroleum reserve" by the government, a lawmaker said on Wednesday.
World oil prices have soared past $100 from the previous baseline of $60 to $70 per barrel, which was "very painful" for Filipinos, said economist and Albay 2nd District Rep. Joey Salceda.
Gas prices rose by P3, while diesel prices by P5 on Tuesday, hitting the already struggling public transport drivers who are lobbying for fare hikes, after Russia launched military actions to take over parts of Ukraine.
If Russian President Vladimir Putin's character is to be considered, the crisis and its impact might drag on, Salceda said.
“We need to be preemptive, more precautionary in terms of precautionary measure… Paano kung meron tayong (what if we experience) supply disruption? We need to be prepared for that,” he told ANC.
"It makes sense for us to start thinking about the strategic petroleum reserve," added Salceda, who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee.
The government should also explore other means to cushion the impact of the surging oil prices to the "borderline" Filipinos as continued hikes are seen to push at least 1.3 million more people into poverty, he said.
Salceda said this could cut gains and even worsen the country's poverty incidence.
He said President Rodrigo Duterte could disburse calamity funds and certify as urgent the suspension of excise taxes on fuel, while local government can impose price control and crack down on profiteering.
"It's inevitable that we need to at least cushion the impact, given the potential impact on the economy especially for the people who are on the borderline... Kailangan ng burden-sharing (there should be burden-sharing)," he said.
Inflation might soar to over 5 percent in June, from 3 percent in February, Salceda said, citing estimates.