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Urgent need

Pump prices of petroleum products are expected to continue rising as the Russia-Ukraine crisis took a turn for the worse last week.

Lawmakers have urged President Duterte to call a special session of Congress to pass the bill suspending the excise tax on oil to ease the impact of high prices on motorists and consumers.

As of last Monday, the net cumulative increase in fuel prices so far this year alone has reached P10.85 per liter for diesel, P8.75 for gasoline and P9.55 for kerosene.

Prices of the global benchmark Brent crude oil on Thursday soared past $100 a barrel for the first time in more than 7 years after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a “military operation” in the sovereign state of Ukraine.

The immediate impact of the unprovoked war started by Putin is expected to further raise pump prices of petroleum products in the country. Latest data from the Department of Energy showed that the country imports 77.4 percent of its gasoline, 80 percent of diesel and 84 percent of its kerosene needs.

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas earlier pointed out in a monetary policy report that the ultimate tipping point was if Dubai crude futures hit $110 a barrel. Rising prices could crimp household spending and likely prompt earlier and more aggressive interest rate hikes from the BSP, which will snuff out the nascent recovery of bank lending. Transport and utility will also likely rise.

Although legislators are on break due to the campaign period, the Constitution empowers the President to convene Congress any time during its adjournment. Given the worsening global situation, a special session of Congress to approve the suspension of the tax on oil for at least six months would make sense.

Our government has to respond to the current crisis in the best way it can. President Duterte may be ready to call it a day and pack his bags, but unless the crisis in Ukraine is resolved quickly, action has to be taken and it is the President that has to take the lead in finding solutions that can benefit the Filipino people.*

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May 2022
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