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Gatchalian questions PNOC-EC plan to import Singapore diesel

MAKATI CITY, Philippines – A gas station personnel attends to a customer in Makati City, 7 Sept 2018. Senator Win Gatchalian believes that importation of cheap diesel is not the best solution to shield public utility drivers from soaring pump prices in the global market. Photo by Mark Cayabyab/OS WIN GATCHALIAN

Senator Win Gatchalian is questioning the decision of the Philippine National Oil Company – Exploration Corp. (PNOC-EC) Board to import some ₱2 billion worth of diesel from Singapore, raising doubts as to whether the plan is the best solution to alleviate the plight of public utility drivers struggling to cope with rising fuel prices.

“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,” said Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate committees on economic affairs and energy, respectively.

To illustrate his point, Gatchalian explained that 179,852 legitimate public utility jeepney (PUJ) franchise holders nationwide need at least 161.1 million liters of diesel per month to fuel their operations. However, PNOC-EC said it plans to import 50,000 MT per month, which is only equivalent to 50 million liters of diesel or just over 31% of the monthly demand for diesel.

Gatchalian also contends that there is no assurance that PUJ drivers will be able to get hold of the cheap diesel since not all gasoline stations will participate in the program. According to PNOC-EC, the distribution of the imported fuel shall only be done “through smaller oil companies and other bulk buyers.” Data from the DOE show that these independent oil players operates only 3,051 of the total 8,630 gas stations nationwide.

“Mukhang mas maraming PUJ drivers ang magiging dehado sa planong ito dahil hindi lahat ay makakakuha ng murang diesel sa programang ito. Idagdag mo pa yung problema sa pagmonitor ng mga tinatawag nating leakage or non-qualified beneficiaries sa mga gasoline stations. Dapat siguro timbangin at pag-aralan pa natin kung talaga bang mas makikinabang ang mga ordinaryong drivers dito sa planong ito,” the lawmaker said.

Instead of engaging in the direct importation of cheap diesel, Gatchalian said the government should step up its efforts to fully implement the Pantawid Pasada Program. He vowed to fight for the ₱20,000 cash aid for jeepney drivers under the Pantawid Pasada Program for 2019 as government economic managers said they might reduce it to ₱10,000 amid the looming 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 the Pantawid Pasada, which will truly benefit our PUJ drivers,” Gatchalian said.