PUV fuel subsidies

The government-owned Philippine National Oil Company (PNOC) has plans to begin selling discounted fuel to targeted beneficiaries amid fuel prices soaring to unprecedented rates.

In a Senate hearing on Monday, newly seated PNOC president Jesus Cristino Posadas said that the company would issue subsidies to the challenged transport sector, buying fuel from oil industry titans and selling to beneficiaries at participating gas stations for a lower price.

The core recipients would be public utility vehicle (PUV) drivers and operators who have experienced challenging times during the recent oil price hikes. According to Posadas, PNOC's focus would be buying diesel as it has risen in price more dramatically than gasoline. Diesel is also the preferred fuel for many PUVs as it has been traditionally cheaper than gas.

A subsidy budget amounting to P5 billion has been set aside by the government, while additional funding from either the Land Bank of the Philippines or the Development Bank of the Philippines is also possible.

Meanwhile, the Department of Energy (DOE) has urged oil companies to slow down their fuel price hikes to help consumers weather the storm. Staggered price hikes could alleviate the strain from private motorists and PUV operators. 

However, the Department of Finance (DOF) is playing coy on suspending the fuel excise tax in the Philippines, reasoning that such a suspension would only benefit members of the upper-income brackets. The government agency further stated that a stoppage of the excise tax would not significantly impact the more marginalized citizens of the country.

Fuel subsidies have started at the local government unit (LGU) level, as Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte on Wednesday led the distribution of P500 worth of gas vouchers to qualified tricycle drivers. A total of 3,982 drivers will receive the vouchers as part of the first batch. 

Whatever the national government decides, it's clear that something has to give. We may not have seen the worst of the fuel price hikes, so ordinary motorists will have to brace themselves in the meantime.

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