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LTFRB says yet to receive Comelec's official decision exempting fuel subsidies from election ban

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LTFRB says yet to receive Comelec's official decision exempting fuel subsidies from election ban
"We are really ready to implement [it]. We're just waiting for the copy of the Comelec's decision because until now, we still don't have the signed copy from the Comelec," LTFRB Executive Director Maria Kristina Cassion said in an interview over Laging Handa on Friday, April 8, 2022.
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) said Friday that it is waiting to receive a copy of the Commission on Election's (Comelec's) decision exempting the agency's fuel subsidy distribution program from the elections ban on public works. 

This comes after the Comelec approved LTFRB's request to exempt its program from the public works ban taking place from March 25 to May 8. 

"We are really ready to implement [it]. We're just waiting for the copy of the Comelec's decision because until now, we still don't have the signed copy from the Comelec... We need to show the decision of Comelec to Land Bank so they can credit [the amounts]," LTFRB Executive Director Maria Kristina Cassion said in a mix of English and Filipino during a Laging Handa briefing Friday. 

She explained that Land Bank of the Philippines, whom they are partnering with for the subsidy distribution, cannot just release the funds without a hard copy of the Comelec's official decision because the Commission on Audit (COA) will flag them for doing so. 

"There really needs to be a paper (document) which officially approves of the distribution," Cassion said. 

The LTFRB official added they were thankful to the Comelec for granting their petition, adding that the move will help public utility vehicle operators and drivers.

Citing news reports, Cassion said they might be able to get a copy of Comelec's decision by today or Monday.  

As of end-March, over 110,200 beneficiaries have already received their subsidies.

Earlier this week, LTFRB suspended its fuel subsidy distribution program as it waited for the poll body's decision on its application. Days later, the Comelec greenlit its petition, allowing for its exemption from the elections ban.

The public works ban, which will take place from March 25 to May 8, prohibits government agencies from engaging in disbursement, spending and construction activities. 

A certificate of exemption is required to implement social welfare projects and services during the ban, based on Comelec Resolution No. 10747.

The Office of the Vice President and Department of Social Welfare and Development are also exempted from the public spending ban ahead of elections, according to a report from Inquirer.net.

Support from senators

On Friday, Sen. Sherwin "Win" Gatchalian, who chairs his chamber's energy committee, lauded the poll body's decision to exempt the disbursement of fuel subsidies. 

In a statement, he renewed his call to the LTFRB and Transportation department to fast-track the fuel subsidy distribution, saying that this will help cushion the impacts of the rising fuel prices on the take-home pay of members in the public transport sector. 

Sen. Panfilo "Ping" Lacson, who is running for president in this year's elections, and Grace Poe, also earlier commended the Comelec for its decision. 

In a statement Thursday, Poe urged the government to use digital payments and e-wallets in distributing its cash aid, and suggested the use of the national ID system's database to help identify and verify beneficiaries. 

The State earlier doubled its fuel subsidies to P6.1 billion to help affected sectors in the transportation and agriculture industries cope with the sustained oil price hikes. 

Local pump prices have been increasing since the start of the year due to supply disruptions in the global oil market, partly worsened by Russia's invasion of Ukraine. 

Earlier this week, domestic oil firms announced price reductions for the second time this year, but these were not enough to offset the increases of fuel prices since the beginning of 2022. — Angelica Y. Yang

COMELEC

COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS

FUEL

LAND TRANSPORTATION FRANCHISING AND REGULATORY BOARD

LTFRB

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