“Ping-it” (grimace)

STRAIGHT TO THE POINT - Atty. Ruphil Bañoc - The Freeman

As of this writing, fuel prices continue to rise. And as usual, it is again the ordinary and helpless man who will ultimately bear the brunt of its consequences.

I was on board a taxi when the driver told me that the number of taxi passengers has actually returned to normal, or more precisely, to what it was before COVID-19 hit. The sad news, he added, is that their income barely meets their taxi rent and gasoline costs.

To date, prices of gasoline, diesel, and kerosene are already close to ?100 per liter already.

So drivers go home almost empty handed. These drivers have families to feed or children to send to school. “Ping-it” (grimace) may prove too light a word to describe their condition.

The story does not end there. The domino effect of fuel price hikes reaches the lowest strata of our society. There may be a grain of truth to the claim that it is a shared burden --that the rich, the middles class, and the poor man carry a shared burden. But nobody is more burdened than the poor man. He has no one to whom he can shift the burden, even a little part of it. So he suffers in silence.

Headlines such as “Oil companies announce third straight week of price hike” (CNN Philippines, June 20, 2022) do not shock many of us anymore, and we forget that every increase is like salt rubbed into an open wound.

There is, of course, an explanation being offered for said increase; global market. Oil is a global commodity. Its price is influenced by the law on supply and demand. Prices will go down when the supply is greater. The opposite is also true. I would like to think nobody argues with this fact.

While the conflict between Russia and Ukraine persists, oil prices problems will also continue to linger. There seems to be no end to it in sight. These things are beyond our control.

We urge the government to act on things that are within our control. Something to this effect was already said months ago like suspending the imposition of excise tax on gasoline and granting of subsidies to PUV drivers, but much has yet to be done.

This is a call for the next administration to immediately act on, especially referring to the excise tax suspension. This can at least help to lower the oil price, but also means loss of revenue on the part of government. Hence, this decision is an acid test for the next set of officials in this country.

On the aspect of government’s giving of subsidy, the Department of Budget and Management, in its statement, said in part: “Given the recent developments, the government remains ready to provide targeted relief assistance and support to address the impact of the oil price hike for the affected sectors, especially Public Utility Vehicle (PUV), drivers, farmers and fisherfolk.”

“To assist the transport sector, the government is preparing the release of PHP 2.5 billion for the Fuel Subsidy Program of the Department of Transportation,” the statement continued.

Our constant prayer is that whatever subsidy the government prepares, such should reach the intended beneficiaries.


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