CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines — Some 350 accredited fishing boat owners in the town of Alicia in Zamboanga Sibugay may have availed of the government’s fuel subsidy worth Php 3,000 but the system was not prepared to ensure the smooth download of such assistance, the Federation of Free Farmers (FFF) said.
The FFF said that aside from the delay in the distribution of the subsidy cards, the beneficiaries are now facing the challenge of having to travel to the municipality of Ipil of the same province just to withdraw the fuel assistance from just one gasoline station with point-of-sales (POS) equipment that accepts the subsidy card.
The federation noted that, for instance, a fisherman in Alicia must spend around Php 800 for fare, food, and other expenses and travel for two hours to Ipil, which is 70 kilometers away.
“After filling up two or three containers with a total of around 40 liters, he must somehow get a bus or jeepney for his return to Alicia. Most vehicles refuse to load his containers for safety reasons,” the FFF said.
The group said that per report of Cris Batonghinog, a chairman of a fisherfolk association in Alicia, several fishermen recently rented an Elf open van for Php 7,500 to transport the fuel from Ipil to Alicia.
“On the way back to Alicia, one of the gasoline-filled drums exploded, damaging the truck and some nearby homes. Luckily, the entire cargo did not catch fire, and none were injured,” FFF quoted Batonghinog.
The group said Batonghinog accompanied some fishermen to a gas station in Alicia. Based on his recent talk with a representative from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources regional office in Zamboanga Peninsula, Batonghinog thought they could now tap the POS facility there instead of going all the way to Ipil. However, the machine rejected their POS-BDO cards.
“For 2022, a total of 69,000 fishing boat owners throughout the country are supposed to receive fuel subsidy cards. That number will double to 138,000 in 2023. How many are experiencing or will face the same predicament as that of the fishermen in Alicia?” the FFF said.
Apparently, the federation said, the program for fishermen was patterned after the fuel subsidy scheme first implemented for jeepney drivers in Metro Manila.
But FFF said the conditions in the rural areas are vastly different from those in the major cities. For example, it said, gasoline stations with a POS machine are fairly common and easily accessible in the National Capital Region compared to provinces.
To be effective, the group said, the fuel subsidy program must be fisherman-friendly. It suggested withdrawing the subsidy in cash, but with a monitoring system to ensure its use for fishing operations.
“And why not authorize other gasoline stations and POS service providers that are more accessible to fishermen to participate in the program?”, it said. (davaotoday.com)