The government needs to allocate P914.160 million to subsidize licensed public utility jeepneys (PUJs) in the country against astronomical rise in fuel prices, according to Senate Committee on Energy Chairman Sherwin T. Gatchalian.

He, however, qualified that such scale of subsidy will just be for three months – or until December this year only, to cushion the fuel expenses of around 178,244 valid PUJ franchise holders and to avert a petition for a fare hike.

Gauging from that scale of subsidy requirement then and if the swell in international oil prices will persist until next year, the aggregate subsidy on a 12-month stretch could be as much as P3.66 billion.

The lawmaker is supporting the intensifying call to extend fuel subsidy to the jeepney drivers, as the relentless upswing in prices at the domestic pumps have been turning up as a very ‘punishing’ predicament for daily wage earners in the public transport sector.

In Gatchalian’s view, the best step to be taken by the State – with the imprimatur of the Department of Energy (DOE) – is to reactivate the “Pantawid Pasada Program” which previously served as a ‘subsidy scheme’ to the jeepney drivers.

As of the latest price adjustment this month, the lawmaker noted that the per-liter-cost of gasoline products already climbed to P58.85 on average versus P51.25 in a parallel period last year; while for diesel, it is now at a higher P47.90 per liter compared to last year’s P35.46 per liter.

“My call on the government is to protect our PUJ drivers and also the commuters. This is where the revival of the Pantawid Pasada program is needed, so the government can allocate funds to subsidize part of the price increases in petroleum products,” Gatchalian stressed.

In the solon’s calculation, the potential increase in fuel expenses to be shelled out by the jeepney drivers on a monthly basis could be as much as P1,422.50 for those using gasoline; while it would be at the magnitude of P598.36 for those who are filling up their vehicles with diesel.

Global oil prices have been incessantly at multi-year highs of US$83 to US$84 per barrel in recent trading days, and for the Philippine market, that could be a harbinger of another round of hefty pump price hikes next week.

PUJ drivers are already exasperated at the weekly price upticks being implemented by the oil companies, thus, they already initiated the filing of petition for at least P3.00 increase in the minimum fare of Filipino commuters.

But the spiraling effect of skyrocketing oil prices will not just be on public transportation, this will also have inflationary impact on the cost of other basic services and prime commodities. ###

Source: Manila Bulletin (