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Pantawid Pasada, unacceptable: Aquino insensitive to the poor, inutile amid soaring oil prices

Posted on 28 February 2012 by admin

Press statement
Feb. 29, 2012
Reference: Eleanor de Guzman, deputy secretary general

As the country braces for another round of oil price hikes this week – the eighth for this year already – the Pantawid Pasada program of the Aquino administration is becoming ever more unacceptable as a mitigating measure to ease the impact of escalating pump prices on the public. President Aquino is again increasingly exposed as insensitive to the plight of the poor and inutile in the face of skyrocketing oil prices and overpricing by oil companies.

Aquino should stop insisting on the Pantawid Pasada program as it is severely lacking even as a stopgap measure. First, at P1,200 per card, the fuel subsidy is not even enough to cover a day’s diesel need of a jeepney driver. Second, at 100,000 cards, the Pantawid Pasada excludes hundreds of thousands of other jeepney drivers. Third, the process of reloading all the cards takes a while even as oil prices increase almost weekly, thus further negating its efficacy as an emergency measure. Fourth, the program excludes other marginalized sectors such as farmers and fishers who, like the jeepney drivers, rely on fuel for their livelihood.

We reiterate our demand that the more important mitigating measure amid soaring oil prices is to cancel the 12% value added tax (VAT) on petroleum products. This measure has an immediate and substantial effect on pump prices. For instance, the pump price of diesel and gasoline could go down by almost P6-7 per liter if the oil VAT is removed. The retail price of cooking gas (11-kg LPG tank) could go down by almost P100. These are tangible benefits that can be at once felt by many poor sectors, and not only the jeepeny drivers, without the complicated process of reloading and distributing fuel subsidy cards.

We are appalled that Aquino has not even displayed any sense of urgency and political will to protect the interest of ordinary consumers and motorists. Instead, he chose to exert his energy and influence on the Corona impeachment trial that has already been underway and will proceed even without his intervention. His intervention and vast political power are better used in facilitating the passage of important and long pending bills and resolutions in Congress that seek to control oil prices, but which he has ignored.

However, the leadership of Congress, including the concerned committees on energy and ways and means, should not wait for Aquino’s seal of approval on bills that seek to remove the oil VAT, junk the Oil Deregulation Law, and effectively regulate the oil industry. From the start, Aquino has already made it very clear that he will continue the anti-people policies on oil of his predecessor, Mrs. Gloria Arroyo. But we challenge the leadership of the House of Representatives (HoR) and the Senate to protect the interest of the people that they supposedly represent. We know that several congressmen and senators from various political groups have already filed bills that intend to address the problem of exorbitant oil prices and uncontrolled price hikes. We urge our people to keep on pressing legislators to act on these pending bills very soon. #

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