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Roque: More agricultural subsidies amid fuel price hike

Harry Roque

UniTeam senatorial candidate Harry Roque has urged the government to extend subsidies to pandemic-affected farmers and fisherfolks in the face of spiraling petroleum costs brought about by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Roque said the armed conflict in Eastern Europe has alarmingly resulted in soaring global crude oil prices and surging domestic pump prices. This has increased the economic vulnerability of the agriculture sector.

“As a short-term measure, the government should continue subsidizing our farmers and fisherfolks who are highly dependent on petroleum products in the production, supply, and transportation of their goods,” Roque said.

The former presidential spokesman added that the soaring fuel prices would lead to higher farm inputs such as fertilizers, pesticides, equipment, and planting materials.

“The agricultural sector is still grappling with the pandemic’s negative impacts,” Roque noted. “The surging fuel prices have compounded the burden, so we must offer medium and long-term solutions to the sector.”

He suggested that Congress should review the fuel excise tax under the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law, Republic Act 11203 or the Rice Tariffication Law, and the revival of the defunct Oil Price Stabilization Fund (OPSF).

Roque said the Senate and Lower House could suspend the excise tax on petroleum products since the Brent crude oil prices, which is used as a global benchmark, have breached the US$ 100 per barrel mark.

Currently, the excise tax stands at P10 per liter for gasoline, Php 6 per liter for diesel, and P5 per liter for kerosene.

“Congress should look into the possibility of restoring the OPSF that was enacted in 1984. Given the skyrocketing local fuel prices, the government is compelled to provide subsidies to different sectors,” Roque said.

Presidential Decree 1956 created the OSPF, which seeks to minimize frequent price changes brought about by exchange rate adjustments or increased world market prices of crude oil and imported petroleum products.

Further, Roque said the Senate should review whether the Rice Tariffication Law is working, particularly in attaining all its objectives.

“We have to make sure that the 10 billion rice competitive enhancement fund is benefiting our farmers in terms of capital and loans,” stated Roque.

The rice tariffication law liberalizes rice importation, exportation, and trading. The government adopts tariffs in place of non-tariff import restrictions to protect local producers of agricultural products.

Oil companies implemented a price increase in domestic oil products effective March 1.

The Department of Energy said that the price of gasoline has increased by 90 centavos per liter, diesel by 80 centavos per liter, and kerosene by 75 centavos per liter.

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