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Sunday, December 3, 2023

Comelec exempts fuel subsidy from poll spending ban

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has exempted the fuel subsidy program for public utility vehicles (PUVs) from the spending ban in relation to the 2023 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections (BSKE).

Comelec Chairman George Garcia signed and approved the recommendation of the Comelec Law Department to exempt the Department of Transportation and Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board’s Fuel Subsidy Program, PUV Service Contracting Program and PUV Modernization Program.

The move will allow the government to provide assistance to PUV drivers even during the election campaign period.

Garcia said the exemption would not influence the conduct of the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections on Oct. 30 but would help alleviate the plight of many Filipinos who are in dire need of help, particularly those affected by the recent natural calamities and the continuing increase of fuel prices.

Comelec Resolution 10944 prohibits the release, disbursement or expenditure of public funds for social services and development due to the scheduled BSK elections on Oct. 30.

Garcia said that while the Comelec resolution only covers aid distribution given by the barangays, it would be better to issue an explicit resolution covering the fuel subsidy to avoid legal questions.

Around 1.36 million beneficiaries are expected to receive fuel subsidies, including PUV operators, tricycle drivers and delivery service riders.

Earlier, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) asked the Comelec to exempt the nationwide distribution of financial aid to micro rice retailers from the election-related ban on the release of public funds.

The DSWD asked to be allowed to release P15,000 in cash assistance to each small-scale rice retailer.

Also on Wednesday, Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte expressed dismay over the Department of Energy’s alleged inaction on its two-year-old circular establishing a strategic petroleum reserve program (SPRP) to ease the impact of global oil shocks on the public.

Villafuerte urged DOE Secretary Raphael Perpetuo Lotilla and other energy officials to “act on the SPRP with a much greater sense of urgency, more so at this time when the latest global oil price shock has raised the retail costs of diesel and gasoline for the 10th time in the same number of weeks.”

Villafuerte took a jab at the DOE following another round of fuel rate adjustments last Tuesday (Sept. 19)—the 11th time in 11 weeks—amid fears that the price hikes would continue until end-December and that global oil prices could surpass $100 per barrel for the rest of the year.

“Our energy officials are not helping President Marcos deliver on his ‘walang iwanan’ (no one left behind) commitment to improve the lives of all Filipinos by seemingly sitting on their hands on this SFRP, whose purpose is to help cushion, especially for the poor and low-income families, the debilitating impact of spiraling day-to-day transport and food expenses.”

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