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Bacolod City, Philippines Friday, April 1, 2011
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Smart cards’ temporary
solution only: protestors
Solon to press for action on fuel price difference

BY CARLA GOMEZ

Public utility jeepney and tricycle franchise holders in Negros Occidental will also be entitled to fuel subsidies for a month as approved by President Benigno Aquino, Energy Undersecretary Jose Layug said yesterday.

Layug told the DAILY STAR that "smart cards" or prepaid cards will be issued to those entitled to the subsidies.

The announcement was made as drivers in Negros Occidental, like their counterparts in the rest of the country, yesterday staged a protest against rising oil prices.

About 300 protestors, mostly public utility vehicle drivers, joined a United Negros Drivers Operators Center-led rally in front of the Fountain of Justice at Araneta Street in Bacolod City yesterday afternoon.

The protestors were accompanied by numerous vehicles that briefly stalled traffic along Araneta Street.

Ortega said that while they will accept the fuel subsidy to be given by the government, it is only a reprieve and not a real solution to their woes.

“We are demanding a reduction in the unreasonable price difference of fuel sold in Negros Occidental compared to Metro Manila,” he said.

Fuel in Negros Occidental is from P4 to P5 higher than in Metro Manila, the price difference should be brought down even by only P2, Ortega said.

He said their protest yesterday was an opening salvo to even bigger mass actions if government fails to heed their demands.

P500M SUBSIDY

The president yesterday announced the approval of a P500 million fuel subsidy for PUJ and tricycle franchise holders to cushion the impact of  the continuing increase in petroleum prices.

The subsidies would be in lieu of approved fare hikes, Aquino said.

The fund will come from the savings of the government as well as from increased revenues.

After one month, the government will assess the project implementation and determine whether it is effective and if it should get more funding or not. The President said the project implementation depends on the volatility of fuel prices abroad.

Layug said the prepaid cards will have the license plate and franchise numbers of the recipient’s vehicle on it.

“We are waiting for the final amount from Malacañang but we are hoping (the subsidy will be) between P2 to P3 per liter, at 15 liters per day for 30 days or, roughly, around P1,000,” Layug said.

GOLEZ

Bacolod Rep. Anthony Golez yesterday said he will continue to press the Department of Energy to find ways to reduce the price difference of fuel sold in Negros Occidental compared to Metro Manila.

Golez had asked Layug to meet with business and transport leaders Wednesday night to address their concerns.

However, those at the meeting said they were disappointed that Layug  had no concrete answer to whether the price difference could be brought down despite his earlier promise to act on the matter.

Layug, as he did during his previous visit to Bacolod in February, said they would have to gather more data to validate the claim that fuel sold in Bacolod and Negros Occidental is overpriced, and that oil companies are operating as a cartel

He said a team tasked to look into the matter under the previous administration found no cartelization in the area, and a new team would have to be created to review its findings.

Golez said the DOE should seek specifics from the oil companies on the cost of their shipping of fuel to Negros Occidental to determine how this affects prices.

It should also determine if port facilities in Bacolod were affecting the type of vessels that can be used to bring in the fuel, he added.

“We need more concrete answers,” Golez said.*CPG

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