PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte said Filipinos should take the bus or train instead of driving a car amid spiraling global fuel prices after Russia invaded Ukraine.

“If supply is unavailable or lacking, that’s dangerous, (because) only the rich can afford it,” he said at a taped Cabinet meeting aired on Tuesday. “Since the prices of gasoline are too high, you should just take a bus or the MRT.”

Mr. Duterte said people should take the train, which can carry more passengers in the metropolis.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine would affect the economy and movement of people “because there is no gasoline or oil.”

“We will have a hard time if the demand is high while the supply is low,” he said. “If the amount available for export is inadequate in other oil-producing countries, if they do not increase the output of their oil, there will be a crisis again.”

European Union nations would consider an oil embargo on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine as they gather this week with US President Joseph R. Biden for a series of talks that seek to harden Western response to Moscow, Reuters reported.

Russia, which supplies 40% of Europe’s gas, earlier warned it could stop the flow of gas through pipelines from Russia to Germany after Berlin halted the opening of the controversial new Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said oil prices could more than double to $300 a barrel if the US and its allies banned imports of Russian oil, a crucial source of revenue after the country was effectively frozen out of Western financial markets.

Mr. Duterte said the global market had been greatly hit by the war, affecting Philippine exports and intensifying inflation globally.

He said he hoped the “stupid war” would end soon. “At this time, we choose to remain neutral. For now, let us not interfere.”

“We cannot compete when everything goes up,” the tough-talking Philippine leader said. “No matter how much you protest, that is really the price of fuel. You drivers and everyone else, stop being resentful about the rising prices because everyone in the world has been hit by this.”

After 11 straight weeks of fuel price increases in the past weeks, local oil companies announced big-time price cuts starting Tuesday. Caltex, Cleanfuel, Jetti, Petro Gazz, PTT Philippines, Total, Seaoil and Shell said they would cut gasoline prices by P5.45 a liter and P11.45 a liter for diesel.

Caltex, Seaoil and Shell said they would also cut kerosene prices by P8.55 a liter.

Meanwhile, Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III said at the recorded meeting that the country remained at minimal risk from the coronavirus, with low-risk healthcare use rates.

As of Sunday, 72% or 65 million of the 90 million target population had been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, he said. He added that 88% of adults, 75% of senior citizens and 77% of children aged 12 to 17 have been fully vaccinated, while 11.5 million people have had booster shots.

“Other than the decreasing number of COVID cases, the minimum public health standards have also helped with the decline of the tallied cases of dengue, acute bloody diarrhea, pertussis or whooping cough, acute meningitis and encephalitis syndrome in other countries, as well as here in our country,” Mr. Duque said in Filipino.

People should continue to follow health protocols, while vaccination should be intensified for coronavirus infections to continue falling, he added.

“For those who have yet to be vaccinated, please get vaccinated with your primary series, and for those who have completed this, please ensure you get a booster dose at the right time — three months after the second dose,” he said.

Vaccine czar Carlito G. Galvez, Jr., who also attended the event, said 48 areas were now under Alert Level 1, including the capital region and most provinces in Central Luzon, Calabarzon, Ilocos, Cagayan Valley and Western Visayas.

The government seeks to vaccinate at least 80% of health workers, seniors and seriously ill people in key cities and urban areas, he said. A special vaccination drive will happen in the Bangsamoro region, Soccsksargen, Central Visayas and Davao so at least 70% of their target population will get vaccine shots.

Mr. Galvez also said more vaccinations would occur at job sites, terminals, villages and public-private medical clinics.

Children aged 5 to 17 would also be prioritized because they would soon attend physical classes, he added. Health Authorities were still studying whether to vaccinate children aged four years and below.

Also on Tuesday, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario S. Vergeire said that coronavirus infections had not increased during the election campaign season.

“We have not recorded or observed any upticks in the number of cases, especially in these areas where these campaign sorties are happening,” she told a televised news briefing. — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan