SENATOR Sherwin T. Gatchalian has urged the government to reactivate a fuel subsidy program to offset the impact of high fuel prices, which have been rising for seven consecutive weeks.

Under the “Pantawid Pasada” program, authorities distributed fuel cards to subsidize the public transportation sector.

“I am calling on the government to protect our public utility drivers and commuters. They can do this by reactivating the Pantawid Pasada where the government will absorb the rising rates of petroleum by providing subsidies to the public,” Mr. Gatchalian, who chairs his chamber’s senate energy committee, said in a statement Thursday.

He said the government needs to spend at least P914.16 million on a three-month subsidy for the 178,244 franchise holders of public utility jeepneys.

He also called on the Energy department to monitor the compliance of oil companies with their inventory requirements.

Under Executive Order 134 signed by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, oil companies must retain a minimum inventory of petroleum products.

The Department of Energy (DoE) implemented the order through a department circular in 2003 which set a minimum inventory equivalent to 15 days’ worth of demand for petroleum products, and seven days’ worth of liquefied petroleum gas.

The DoE and Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board are looking at implementing a fare hike and providing cash assistance to members of the transport industry to offset the impact of higher oil prices.

This week, oil companies raised gasoline prices by P1.30 per liter (/L) this week. Meanwhile, diesel and kerosene prices rose P1.50/L and P1.45/L, respectively.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries in a meeting with Russia agreed to stick to a plan of gradually increasing oil output despite rising demand. — Angelica Y. Yang