Partido Reporma standard-bearer Senator Panfilo "Ping" Lacson (File photo)

MANILA – Partido Reporma standard-bearer Senator Panfilo "Ping" Lacson on Wednesday said he is willing to attend a special session of Congress if called by President Rodrigo Duterte to discuss the possible declaration of a state of economic emergency amid the unabated spike in oil prices.

"It is okay with me so that the government will have the needed flexibility to deal with this scourge of fuel price hikes," Lacson told reporters when sought for comment.

This came amid mounting calls for lawmakers to hold a special session on the matter as soaring fuel prices continue to take a toll on the local economy and consumer spending.

Meanwhile, Lacson said there should absolutely be no room for corruption or administrative lapses in the distribution of fuel subsidies to sectors affected by the continued rise in oil prices.

He added authorities should learn from the past where aid from the "Bayanihan" funds failed to reach their intended beneficiaries, especially the public utility drivers.

The Cabinet's economic development cluster is proposing to increase the fuel subsidy for public transport drivers from PHP2.5 billion to PHP5 billion; and the budget for fuel discount vouchers for farmers and fisherfolk from PHP500 million to PHP1.1 billion.

"Bukod sa corruption issue, may administrative issue ng pag-distribute. Baka mamaya sabihin natin, patay na ang kabayo bago dumating ang ayuda (Aside from the issue of possible corruption, there is the administrative issue of distributing the funds. We cannot afford a case of the aid coming too late)," Lacson added.

He recalled that while Congress passed the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan 2) to help the transport sector cope with the effects of the pandemic, the Commission on Audit later found that only 1 percent of the fund reached the intended recipients.

Otherwise, Lacson said doubling fuel subsidies for the transport sector and fuel discount vouchers for the agriculture sector to help them cope with the spiraling prices of oil is the right thing to do.

"Due to the spiraling prices of oil in the world market, doubling the fuel subsidies and vouchers is the right thing to do as allowed under a special provision in the 2022 General Appropriations Act in order to contain inflation which is projected to hit 3.7 percent in 2022," he said.

On Tuesday, the Palace said it is still reviewing calls for President Rodrigo R. Duterte to declare a state of economic emergency amid an increase in prices of petroleum products brought about by the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

This, after Albay Rep. Joey Salceda urged Duterte to declare a state of economic emergency, noting this would enable local government units to tap their calamity funds to address fuel price surges. (PNA)