Farmers, fisherfolk also get fuel subsidy

Published by rudy Date posted on April 13, 2011

MANILA, Philippines –  Following persistent requests for a similar government subsidy, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala yesterday disclosed that farmers and fisherfolk have been included in the fuel subsidy program.

This developed as major oil firms yesterday implemented a new round of increase of fuel prices.

“This is to reflect movements in the international oil market,” was their common response regarding the newest price adjustment.

Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corp. and Chevron Philippines both raised prices at six in the morning while Petron Corp. followed six hours later.

All oil major firms logged similar price adjustments. Premium unleaded gasoline and diesel prices were raised by P1.50 per liter; regular gasoline by an average P1.25 per liter; and kerosene by P1.40 per liter.

Thus, premium gasoline prices will range from P53 to P60.81 per liter, and diesel between P46.45 to P50 per liter.

Alcala, on the other hand, said the Department of Agriculture is already in the process of making a list of pump boats and fishing vessels, as well as tractors that farmers are using in the countryside for them to be able to benefit from the government subsidy in light of the spiraling costs of fuel.

Alcala said the list would be submitted to Energy Secretary Rene Almendras.

“We will submit the list of those who consume petroleum products, even the small pump boats in the provinces and in the regions. We are collating all these, including the tractors the farmers use for irrigation,” Alcala said.

Others that will also be included are vegetable suppliers, he said.

Samar Rep. Ben Evardone, who made the proposal, hailed President Aquino’s decision. “It shows that P-Noy is sensitive to the plight and concerns of the less privileged sectors of our society,” he said.

“We welcome the decision to include marginal farmers and fishermen in the fuel subsidy program of the government. It’s a relief to them that at least their voice was heard by P-Noy,” Evardone said.

Aquino earlier approved a one-month fuel subsidy for passenger jeepneys and tricycles to help the public transport sector cope with the impact of oil price increases.

Critics, however, said the fuel subsidy leaves other sectors out.

Aquino earlier said he is open to giving subsidy to farmers and fisherfolk, to also help them cushion the impact of oil price increases that resulted in the skyrocketing of prices of basic commodities.

The only problem, according to the President, is that the government does not have a database of how many farmers and fishermen should be included in the fuel subsidy.

In the public transport sector, Aquino said, there are records available at the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board.

Secretary Ricky Carandang earlier admitted that providing fuel subsidy to transport groups is merely a stopgap measure to help jeepney and tricycle operators and drivers cope with the rising cost of fuel brought about by tensions in the Middle East and North Africa.

Militant groups, however, pointed out the benefit of the fuel subsidy was wiped out by the latest round of fuel price increases.

“Government cannot go on pleading helplessness in the face of one of the worst economic crisis to hit the country. The dole-outs and other stopgap measures are definitely not enough,” said Renato Reyes of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan).

Bayan challenged President Aquino to fire his economic managers for giving the wrong advice of stopgap measures, which they said are worthless in negating the impact of increasing fuel prices.

Sen. Gregorio Honasan urged the President to convene the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) for the purpose of crafting a plan to address the increase in price of oil in the country.

Honasan said the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) should already be reporting about the impact of the oil price hikes on consumers insofar as the prices of basic goods and services are concerned.

“The NEDA is supposed to be the receptacle… if there is no petroleum, it affects everything from meat to rice to transport. If the projection is that prices would all go up then, for me this is a potential problem,” he said.

Honasan said the government has been forewarned of the global repercussions of the crisis in the Middle East and North Africa.

He said concerned government agencies should already be preparing for worst-case scenarios.

“There has to be periodic reports, more frequent than usual. Now we also have Japan and the dangers of radiation, bilateral trade agreements have been affected. Now a lot of people are saying the price of oil will still go up. What should we do?” Honasan asked.

Honasan said the government must not always be reactive or waiting for something bad to happen and then coming up with stopgap measures.

He said the LEDAC would allow the executive branch to work with Congress in finding solutions or legislative actions if needed.

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said the House of Representatives would still have to study proposals to grant the President emergency powers to deal with rising fuel and food prices.

Food security

While Evardone welcomed the move of Malacañang to expand the coverage of the fuel subsidies to the poor, he said the government must step in to avert the possible crisis and traders should not exploit the situation to hoard commodities and jack up their prices.

“The government must be forceful against any who will exploit the situation,” Evardone said.

“We should not be alarmist but the government must reassure our people that it is ready for any eventuality. It should not hesitate to apply the full force of the law on those will exploit the situation and destabilize the government,” he said.

Anakpawis party-list Rep. Rafael Mariano said that a looming rice crisis is “a real problem” that cannot be addressed by palliative and short-term solutions. –-Delon Porcalla (The Philippine Star) with Ted Torres, Marvin Sy, Paolo Romero, Rhodina Villanueva

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