DOE mulls additional fuel assistance to transport sector

By Ted P. Torres, The Philippine Star

Posted at Jul 20 2011 06:52 AM | Updated as of Jul 20 2011 06:46 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Energy (DOE) is mulling further fuel assistance to the transport sector in view of the series of oil price increases the past week.

Energy Secretary Jose Rene Almendras said they are looking at extending the assistance program after Pilipinas Shell, Eastern Petroleum Co. and Chevron Philippines increased their pump prices yesterday. As of presstime, Petron Corp. and the rest of the oil players have not issued notices of price adjustments.

Almendras said the interagency energy contingency committee (IECC) will discuss the recent developments. “We already have the mechanics and we can do that.”

However, he also expressed concern over the availability of funds for the fuel assistance program.

The oil firms raised prices by an average P1.10 per liter for diesel, P0.60 per liter for regular gasoline, P0.30 per liter for unleaded gasoline and P1 per liter for kerosene effective Tuesday. This is the second oil price increase for the past two weeks.

The IECC crafted the Public Transport Assistance Program, more popularly known as the Pantawid Pasada program, an assistance program aimed at helping jeepney and tricycle drivers through financial support.

Jeepney drivers were given a Pantawid Pasada card loaded with P1,050, which they can use at gasoline stations for fuel purchases while tricycle drivers are programmed to receive P150 from the Interior and Local Government Department.

Around 220,000 jeepneys and one million tricycles stand to benefit from the program.

Almendras reiterated that the grant of another fuel assistance will depend on whether government has the budget for it. The P450-million financial assistance for the Pantawid Pasada Program was funded from the proceeds of the Malampaya gas to power project.

The energy chief said they would also have to determine if the current world oil prices will have an impact on the economy. The benchmark Dubai crude averaged at around $110 per barrel last week while unleaded gasoline was at $123.94 per barrel and imported diesel at $130.85 per barrel.

“We’re looking at the total economic situation, and not just a trigger mechanism,” Almendras said when asked about what price levels would push the government to provide another assistance to the transport sector.

The distribution of the Pantawid Pasada cards started May 1 and is still ongoing.