Gov’t urged to abandon plan to import P2B worth of diesel from Singapore

Published November 5, 2018, 1:04 PM

by Francine Ciasico

By Mario Casayuran

Senator Sherwin T.Gatchalian on Monday said the state-owned Philippine National Oil Company-Exploration Corp. (PNOC-EC) Board should abandon its plan to import some P2 billion worth of diesel from Singapore supposedly to help public utility drivers burdened by rising fuel prices.

Sen. Sherwin T. Gatchalian (Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN)
Sen. Sherwin T. Gatchalian
(Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN)

Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate energy committee, said he doubts whether the plan is the best solution to alleviate the plight of PUJ drivers struggling to cope with high costs of commodities, including rising cost of oil products.

He said the planned importation of 50,000 metric tons (MTs) every month or 50 million liters of diesel represents 31 percent of the monthly demand for diesel.

“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,” he said.
Gatchalian also chairs the Senate committees on economic affairs.

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.

Gatchalian also contends that there is no assurance that PUJ drivers would 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 showed that these independent oil players operate only 3,051 of the total 8,630 gas stations nationwide.

Gatchalian said the plan might not work to benefit all the PUJ drivers because not all of them would be able to buy the PNOC-EC imported diesel.

“Idagdagmo pa yung problema sa pagmonitor ng mga tinatawag nating leakage or non-qualified beneficiaries sa mga gasoline stations. Dapatsigurotimbangin at pag-aralan pa natin kung talaga bang mas makikinabang ang mga ordinaryong drivers dito sa planong ito,” he pointed out. (And you add the problem of monitoring the so-called leakages or non-qualified beneficiaries at gasoline stations. This plan should be carefully studied so that ordinary PUJ drivers benefit from this program.)

Instead of engaging in the direct importation of cheap diesel, Gatchalian said the government should step up its efforts to fully implement the PantawidPasada Program (PPP).

He vowed to fight for the P20,000 cash aid for jeepney drivers under the PPP for 2019 as government economic managers said they might reduce it to P10,000 because of the looming fuel tax hike suspension.

“The DOE (Department of Energy) 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 as the PantawidPasada, which will truly benefit our PUJ drivers,” Gatchalian explained.