A HOUSE leader on Tuesday supported the Palace proposal for the establishment of strategic fuel reserves that would be used to cushion fuel price increases.
“I have been advocating the creation of buffer oil stocks in the event of a regime of high crude oil cost in the world market, such as what we are facing now because of the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” Deputy Speaker and 1-Pacman Rep. Mikee Romero said.
In fact, Romero said as early as September 18, 2019, he had filed House Bill (HB) No. 4689, which sought to establish a “strategic fuel reserve and fuel price stabilization system.”
“That was six months before the pandemic and more than two years before the crisis in Europe. Of course, we could not have seen those events coming, but if the bill had been approved, we could have started accumulating a buffer supply that could be used for eventualities such as what we have now,” he stressed.
Malacañang has proposed the creation of oil reserves and the review of the Oil Deregulation Law in the wake of a growing clamor for the government to take action on frequent increases in fuel prices.
At the same time, the government has revived programs that extend financial assistance to the transportation and farming sectors.
Romero said it would take years to build up oil reserves gradually.
“We can do it when the price of crude oil in the world market returns to 2019 level, below $80 per barrel, but not now when it remains above $100 per barrel,” he said.
In the meantime, he said the meaningful measure the government could take to provide people relief from high fuel prices is the suspension of excise taxes on gasoline, diesel, kerosene, cooking gas, and other oil products.
“The proposed suspension will have an immediate impact on the public,” he added.
However, Romero pointed out that temporarily shelving oil levies would require a bill approved by Congress and signed by President Duterte into law.
The 1-Pacman lawmaker and several other members of Congress have urged the President to call Congress to a special session so that the necessary bill could be passed.
In filing HB No. 4689, Romero said the creation of oil reserves “will enable the government to protect Filipino consumers from the shocks of price hikes of crude oil in the world market and resulting rate increases of public utilities and fuel at gasoline stations, as well as supply disruptions from natural disasters and calamities.”